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Township adopts ordinance to combat use of medical marijuana by drivers

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published October 14, 2015

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — Marijuana has generally remained a hazy issue in both the state and across the country.

The legality of medical marijuana is nothing new in Michigan, though how it has been treated by both users and law enforcement has been a somewhat slippery slope.

In an effort to maintain the medical use of marijuana for those legally allowed to do so, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees recently approved an ordinance that would make both users and non-users alike safer on roads.

A unanimous 5-0 vote occurred Oct. 5 at a township board meeting — Trustees Dean Reynolds and Joie West were absent — for the ordinance that aims to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, as well as to “advance the legitimate and rational regulation in the transportation of usable marijuana.”

In this case, transportation refers to any vehicle designed for land travel, and the ordinance is a means of protecting pedestrians and drivers from dangerous vehicular scenarios. Vehicles, whether in motion or not, are part of the language of the ordinance.

The ordinance states that, when people who are allowed to be in possession of medical marijuana do drive, the substance should be enclosed in a case and either stashed in the trunk, the backseat of an SUV-type vehicle or locked in some area within a vehicle that is not readily accessible to the driver.

No person other than the registered medical marijuana patient should transport or possess medical marijuana.

When the issue was first brought up Sept. 21 at a previous meeting, Township Attorney Jack Dolan stated that the ordinance “is not intended in any way punish or make it difficult for people who have a legitimate purpose to use medical marijuana.”

Dolan later said that the ordinance provides clarification as to how usable medical marijuana should be transported, which is meant to be a proponent of safer driving conditions.

The ordinance, however, does not speak to the status of medical marijuana laws in the state; rather, only the state speaks to lawful possession. The state law has parallels, Dolan said.

“The whole idea is to try and make sure that medical marijuana is being properly transported, that people aren’t driving around smoking all the time,” Dolan said. “Obviously, there’s a risk of impairment. If you’re driving around and there’s a strong smell of marijuana and roaches in the ashtray, you would be in violation of this ordinance.

“There are people who have medical marijuana cards and drive around and smoke pot — at least that has happened. We’re certainly aware of it as reported by police departments and communities we represent.”

Those found in violation of the ordinance will be found guilty of a misdemeanor, which would be punishable as provided by under current penalty provisions pursuant with the Code of Ordinances.

Dolan expounded, saying that the township’s ability to charge under a local ordinance aids the Macomb Prosecutor’s Office because they can focus their resources on more serious cases going on within the county.

It’s akin to someone receiving their first DUI, he said.

“It’s meant to protect the public and make it very clear to people that even if you have a medical marijuana card, you aren’t smoking (while driving).”