Caught in a Haze Elkhart’s Marijuana Problem
As marijuana laws shift around the country, Elkhart has been placed in a strange position. The substance is still treated as a Schedule I drug here, as it is in the rest of Indiana. But many of our friends and neighbors just over the border in Michigan legally use marijuana prescribed by their doctors to treat a wide range of medical conditions. But what these medical marijuana users may not know is that they could be charged with a crime just for driving in the state of Indiana. This is what happens when conflicting laws meet geographic reality. It happens painfully often: Sober Michigan citizens on their way to work or to visit relatives get pulled over and arrested. They don’t have marijuana in their car or on their person. In fact, they may not have smoked it in days. The only thing that lands them in handcuffs is having a little THC in their bloodstream. As the active chemical in marijuana, Indiana considers driving with any amount of THC to be a crime. A minuscule presence of this compound, which can stay in your system for long periods of time, can get you charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. Thus, hardworking Michiganian drivers can be arrested for simply following their doctor’s orders. Here’s how this might happen. Let’s say I’m a resident of Edwardsburg, Michigan, and an employee of one of the recreational vehicle plants in Elkhart. Prior to this job, I served my country in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I now suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder. A doctor legally prescribed me medical marijuana to help me overcome the debilitating effects of PTSD and live a healthy, productive life. Then, one day on my way to work, I’m stopped by an Indiana highway patrolman. Maybe I didn’t realize one of my tail lights was out. When I roll down my window to speak with the officer, he claims he smells weed. I know I don’t have any with me in the car, but I am wearing the jacket I wore while smoking a few days ago. Now with probable cause, the officer asks me to take a blood test. I comply. The tests reveal a minute amount of THC in my system. It’s not enough for me to feel anything, but in Indiana, it’s enough to land me in hot water. I could argue that the law has a provision for those using
prescription drugs, but the state won’t recognize my Michigan-based medical marijuana card.
These kinds of stories are all too common: Good people legally taking a medicine prescribed to them are finding themselves behind bars. If you or a loved one live in Michigan and rely on medical marijuana, you need to be aware of this very real risk. I hope Indiana will institute more common-sense laws in the future, but for now, all I can do is make my services available for those caught in this mess. If you’re charged with operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance, you’ll face a serious legal battle. Having a defense attorney who understands the complex landscape of today’s marijuana regulations will give you your best chance at a favorable outcome.
-Tom Wil son
www.wilson-law-office-elkhart.com | 1
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