Many Medical Marijuana Users In Michigan Drive While High, Study Says

Medical Marijuana
Medical marijuana users advised not to drive after using pot.
(Photo: Flickr/Neon Tommy/Susie Plascencia)

Medical marijuana users in Michigan are driving while high on pot. At least one in five people, who use cannabis to manage their chronic pain and other ailments, admitted that they operate a vehicle within two hours of using marijuana. 

study from the University of Michigan Addiction Center revealed the concerning details of 790 medical marijuana users in the state. Michigan has at least 270,000 registered cannabis users. It is the second state with the largest number of medical marijuana patients in the U.S., right after California.

From 2014 to 2015, researchers conducted a survey of some Michigan medical marijuana users who were renewing their certification to use cannabis for chronic pain. One of the questions in the survey included details about their driving habits, and at least 56 percent said that they drove a vehicle while either a "little high" or "very high." 

Psychologist and study author Erin E. Bonar said that driving under the influence of marijuana is not often seen as too risky compared to driving under the influence of alcohol. Also, experts have yet to determine how marijuana's effects can impair a person because concentrations and dosing requirements for medical cannabis are different for every patient. 

However, a person who is high on pot will still exhibit delayed reaction time or impaired hand and eye coordination. So, they could still be putting themselves at risk of crashing or hitting someone if they're operating a vehicle. Thus, Bonar advised medical marijuana users to stay off driving for at several hours or at least a day after they've used their medication. It's better to be safe than sorry in these critical situations.

Bonar also pushed for lawmakers to establish clearer guidelines on medical marijuana dosing and its side effects. Users also need to understand how cannabis can affect their body and mind, based on their weight, gender, and physiology. 

Medical marijuana in Michigan was first passed into law in 2009, and within a year, marijuana dispensaries all over the state popped up. While federal laws still ban medical marijuana, Michigan is the 13th state in America to make it legal within its confines only.  

Michigan state laws, however, have a zero tolerance for driving while high. The state filed a lawsuit against Rodney Lee Koon for such an offense in May 2013. Koon appealed his case, but the Courts of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling that it's illegal to drive or operate a motor vehicle if you've used pot, even for medical purposes.

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