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Michigan Seeks Science of ‘Drugged Driving’

DETROIT (CN) — A lawmaker making headway on his plan to study "drugged driving" joked that Michigan will be a leader in an area where other states picked a legal limit for driving under the influence of marijuana "out of their ass."

Speaking in an exclusive interview after his bill passed the Michigan House by a landslide vote of 107-1 on Tuesday, Rep. Peter Lucido said "this is the first time a scientific study has been conducted to find the exact limit."

Lucido, of Shelby Township, says he has no stock in the limit Colorado chose after the state legalized marijuana for recreational purposes.

Colorado's limit for drivers is 5 nanograms of THC per unit of blood, but Lucido said lawmakers "basically pulled it out of their ass."

If passed by the house, Lucido's H.B. 5024 would create an impaired driving safety commission within the Michigan State Police to settle on a number supported by science.

Incorporating experts from various fields, Lucido said then commission will represent science, toxicology, pharmacology and law enforcement.

"Everybody can add their two cents in to come to a level of nanograms," the Republican lawmaker joked.

"I want this to be credible, without a study you don't have any credibility," he added.

"A study adds weight and credibility. It adds honesty."

Legislative analysis notes that lawmakers seek to settle a tension between the Michigan Vehicle Code and the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

While the former prohibits people from driving with any detectible amount of marijuana in their bodies, the MMMA bars the prosecution of those who operated a vehicle with marijuana in their systems, so long as they are qualified registered patients and were not actually under the influence of marijuana while they drove.

Since the MMMA does not define "under the influence" as it relates to bodily content of marihuana, however, courts and juries are left to make the determinations.

As described in the bill, the commission will "research and recommend a scientifically supported threshold of THC bodily content to provide evidence for per se impaired driving in this state."

Lucido denied that he is out "to get" holders of medical marijuana cards.

"I'm trying to make good policy," Lucido said. "No, I'm trying to make great policy. I'm not trying to penalize anybody. If you are below the nanogram limit, then, fine, drive a car. Just like the legal limit for alcohol is 0.08. There needs to be a legal limit for marijuana."

If a driver does not have THC in his bloodstream and no marijuana card, he can be charged with operating while under the influence of a narcotic, even if it did not impair his driving.

"Setting a limit means that you can't write me up for driving under the influence of drugs, when under the limit," Lucido said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving reports that nearly a quarter of all drivers presented to level 1 trauma centers after a crash have marijuana in their system.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's 2013-14 roadside survey meanwhile found that more than 22 percent of drivers tested positive for illegal, prescription, or over the counter drugs in blood and oral fluid tests.

Michigan expects to see the results of its impaired driving safety commission study in about a year. The state is also currently talking about legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The lone lawmaker who voted against Lucido's bill, Rep. Triston Cole, did not return a phone call seeking comment.

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