New Study Suggests Medical Marijuana Users Are Driving While High

With recreational marijuana now legal in the state there are still a few unknowns, including how police will enforce impaired driving laws.

A new University of Michigan study finds  a number of patients who use medical marijuana to treat chronic pain have driven under the influence in the past six months.

Around 800 people were studied, half of which or 51 percent reported that they have driven high, and nearly a quarter or 21 percent reported to have driven “very high.”

The stats are concerning for local law enforcement who are trying to crack down on high driving.

“There’s an awareness level that has to be raised both with the citizens and ourselves. It is legal but there are still certain things you can’t do and that will be the biggest growing pain,” Michigan State Police Sgt. Chris Keller, said.

Sgt. Keller is a state police drug recognition expert.

He says with the new law they are enforcing high driving the same way they do drunk driving.

“We look at the standards for an operating while intoxicated traffic stop, there’s certain clues and standards that we have to observe before we make a traffic stop. Those don’t change because we find later on that they may or may not be impaired by a drug,” Keller, explained.

“They don’t need to necessarily be high while they are taking marijuana for their chronic pain,” Veronica James, said.

Veronica James is the owner of AllWell Natural Health in Gaylord.

“That’s where they need to educated, become aware that there are other methods, other ways of taking their marijuana and not being high and still being able to drive quite well. It’s all about balance,” James explained.

James says marijuana is an effective way to combat chronic pain, adding that driving on cannabis is not nearly as big of concern for her as driving on opioids.

“I think that it’s not a huge concern and what I mean by that is there are a lot of people who probably have been driving in those conditions for a long time. I would look into the opioid use [and driving] far more than [marijuana],” James, added.