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There is news everywhere about the legalization of marijuana for recreational use. As of January 2020, 11 states have made it legal to smoke or ingest marijuana for fun or use it for medicinal use: Washington, Oregon, California, Nevada, Alaska, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Vermont, Massachusetts and Maine. The District of Columbia has also legalized recreational marijuana. 

It is predicted that in 2025, legal marijuana sales will earn as much as $23 billion in the U.S. alone. 

So it comes as no surprise that Minnesota lawmakers will consider a legalization bill in February with similar provisions to Illinois, according to news reports. But legalization faces an uphill battle in the Senate this year even if the bill clears the House. Lawmakers are trying to preempt concerns by studying legalization’s effects on everything from taxes to drivers’ intoxication rates, which the bill should address.

The form of the legislation in the House is unclear. Ideas range from full legalization to forming a task force to study the issue. There are hurdles, however. Last session, a bill to legalize the cultivation, manufacturing, distribution and retail sale of recreational marijuana in Minnesota beginning in 2022, along with the expungement of eligible marijuana-related convictions, suffered a quick defeat after just one hearing in the Senate. During last session’s hearing, critics raised concerns about marijuana’s impact on traffic accidents, underage use and drug treatment.

Still, Gov. Tim Walz has expressed support for legalization, announcing in 2019 that he has ordered state agencies to be ready to roll once recreational pot legislation is approved. 

“My agencies have been tasked to put all of the building blocks in place, from Revenue to the Department of Public Safety to the Department of Health,” Walz said. “We will have everything ready to go, and we will be able to implement it in Minnesota the minute the Legislature moves this.”

Once Minnesotans are allowed to smoke or ingest marijuana openly and legally, more and more people will seek the assistance of Minnesota DWI and drug defense lawyer Gerald Miller and his team to help defend their cases and protect their rights. If you have been charged with a DWI – whether it had to do with marijuana, alcohol, or prescription drugs – you are sure to have a lot of questions – including what kind of penalties you’re facing. Our Minneapolis criminal defense law firm can help. 

At Gerald Miller, P.A., you can be assured that you receive the best legal representation in Minnesota.

Why choose the best Minnesota DWI lawyer instead of settling for the cheapest? Because driving under the influence cases can be the most difficult to overcome, especially when it comes to using pot. If you were pulled over and accused of marijuana use, you may also be dealing with drug charges as well, since for now recreational use is still illegal in Minnesota. Don’t go at it alone, and don’t let a one-size-fits all attorney handle your case. It’s too important to your life and your future. 

Give us a call at 612-440-3212.

Marijuana is already legal in Minnesota for medicinal purposes

Minnesota’s medical marijuana program was approved by the legislature in 2014 as one of the most restrictive programs in the country. Minnesota is one of 33 states with a law allowing medical marijuana, even though federal law still classifies marijuana as a schedule I substance.

Since Minnesota’s program launched in 2015, the state has expanded the number of conditions that qualify for a marijuana prescription. Recently, regulators unveiled a plan to add chronic pain and an eye disease to that list.

The state has also allowed the medication to be delivered in more forms and the two companies that produce the state’s medical marijuana to open new distribution centers around the state. More than four years in, the state’s program serves relatively few people and is considered to be too expensive by many patients. The exact form the program will take in the future is unclear, as some lawmakers push for Minnesota to join other states that allow the sale of recreational marijuana.

What conditions qualify for medical cannabis in Minnesota?

  • Cancer associated with severe/chronic pain, nausea or severe vomiting, or cachexia or severe wasting
  • Glaucoma
  • HIV/AIDS
  • Tourette syndrome
  • Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS)
  • Seizures, including those characteristic of epilepsy
  • Severe and persistent muscle spasms, including those characteristic of multiple sclerosis
  • Inflammatory bowel disease, including Crohn’s disease
  • Terminal illness
  • Intractable pain
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder
  • Autism
  • Obstructive sleep apnea
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • As of July 1, 2020, chronic pain and age-related macular degeneration will also qualify

How can a patient enroll in the medical cannabis program?

  • A prescriber who is certified for medical cannabis must diagnose the patient with one or more of the qualifying conditions.
  • Patients must then register online with the Office of Medical Cannabis. Approval can take up to 30 days.
  • The patient or a designated caregiver needs to visit one of the current eight cannabis patient centers in the state to receive the medications.
  • Patients need to re-enroll in the program annually.

Who uses medical marijuana?

  • About 18,000 patients were enrolled in the state’s medical cannabis program as of October 2019.
  • About 64 percent of patients were enrolled in the program for intractable pain conditions, which requires a higher threshold than chronic pain. Nineteen percent of patients were diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and 12 percent were diagnosed with severe muscle spasms.
  • The average medical marijuana patient is almost 50 years old. For patients diagnosed with conditions like autism, the average patient is about 18.

What forms of marijuana can be prescribed in Minnesota?

  • Minnesota’s medical marijuana law doesn’t allow providers to prescribe marijuana plants or gummies to patients.
  • Patients may not grow their own plants.
  • Medical marijuana in Minnesota originally was only available in pill, vapor oil, topical or liquid forms.
  • Starting in the summer of 2020, patients will also be able to get marijuana powders, lozenges, gums, mints and tablets.

How much does medical marijuana cost in Minnesota?

  • Patients must pay a registration fee of $200 before they’re eligible to buy medical marijuana. Patients on some form of medical assistance qualify for a reduced fee of $50.
  • Medical marijuana is not covered by private insurance, and needs to typically be paid for out of pocket.
  • A survey of medical marijuana patients in Minnesota conducted in the first year of the program found that more than half of them considered the cost of the medication to be prohibitive or very prohibitive.
  • Prices for pills, vapor oils and other products sold charged by Minnesota Medical Solutions ranged from $23 to $236 depending on the strength and format of the medications.
  • Prices charged by LeafLine Labs ranged from $28 to $228.
  • Reporting from the St. Paul Pioneer Press found that patients they spoke to paid between $200 and $700 a month on the medications.

How could Minnesota’s medical marijuana system change in the future?

  • Patients and advocates can petition the state to allow marijuana to be prescribed for conditions not currently covered.
  • The state is allowing eight more cannabis patient centers by December 2020, with possible centers in Blaine, Burnsville, Duluth, Golden Valley, Mankato, Rogers, Willmar and Woodbury.
  • Some lawmakers plan to push for Minnesota to join 11 other states, including Illinois, that have approved marijuana for recreational use. Others states like Illinois have kept their medical marijuana programs, but eased the requirements to offer patients more benefits than buying recreational marijuana would.

Driving while impaired is most often associated with driving under the influence of alcohol. But the law also prohibits “drugged driving” — that is, driving under the influence of drugs or hazardous substances.

A Minnesota motorist can be convicted of a drug DWI for driving, operating, or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while:

  • under the influence of a “controlled substance”
  • knowingly under the influence of a “hazardous substance” that affects the body and substantially impairs driving abilities, or
  • having any amount of a schedule I or II controlled substance — except marijuana — in the body.
  • A driver is considered “under the influence” if he or she doesn’t “possess that clearness of intellect and control” that he or she otherwise would.

For purposes of Minnesota’s DWI laws, “controlled substance” means any substance listed in schedules I through V of the state’s Controlled Substances Act. The list is extensive and includes opiates, hallucinogens, depressants, narcotics, and marijuana.

Defendants who are charged for driving with a schedule I or II drug in their system have a defense if they can show that the drug was being used pursuant to a valid prescription. However, the defense doesn’t apply if the driver is charged for driving under the influence of the drug (as opposed to just having a concentration of the drug in the blood).

Marijuana is a schedule I controlled substance, but it’s excluded from the zero-tolerance rule that applies to all other schedule I and II drugs. However, it’s still illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana.

If you have been arrested and charged with DWI because you were taking medication that was prescribed by your doctor, it is essential that you do everything that you can to increase your chances of avoiding some of the negative consequences of being charged with DWI. The first step is to speak with an experienced, compassionate DWI attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. as soon as possible. We can help you build a strong defense against the charges that you’re facing. Contact an attorney at Gerald Miller, P.A. for a free case evaluation today. 

How does marijuana affect driving? 

Driving while impaired by any substance, including marijuana, is dangerous. Marijuana, like alcohol, negatively affects a number of skills required for safe driving. Marijuana can slow your reaction time and ability to make decisions. Marijuana use can impair coordination, distort perception, and lead to memory loss and difficulty in problem-solving. The risk of impaired driving associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either by itself.

What do we know about marijuana use and the risk of car crashes? 

Although we know marijuana negatively affects a number of skills needed for safe driving, and some studies have shown an association between marijuana use and car crashes, it is unclear whether marijuana use actually increases the risk of car crashes. 

This is due to various reasons, including: 

  • An accurate roadside test for drug levels in the body doesn’t exist; marijuana can remain in a user’s system for days or weeks after last use (depending on how much a person uses and how often they use marijuana); 
  • Drivers are not always tested for drug use, especially if they have an illegal blood alcohol concentration level because that is enough evidence for a driving-while impaired charge; and 
  • When tested for substance use following a crash, drivers can have both drugs and alcohol or multiple drugs in their system, making it hard to know which substance contributed more to the crash.

Detection of marijuana in drivers involved in traffic crashes has become increasingly common. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 12.6 percent of weekend nighttime drivers in 2013-2014 tested positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the component that gives marijuana its psychological effects, compared to 8.6 percent in 2007. 

Testing for drug impairment is problematic due to limitations of drug-detecting technology and the lack of an agreed-upon limit to determine impairment, as opposed to merely the presence of marijuana, which can stay in the system for weeks, no longer causing impairment. In addition, tracking marijuana-impaired driving is difficult because drivers who may be under the influence of marijuana and alcohol are often cited for a high blood alcohol concentration and rarely tested for additional substances.

Currently, the most common methods to detect marijuana are through blood, urine, or saliva.

If an illicit drug is going to be found in the blood of drivers who have been involved in vehicle crashes, including fatal ones, it’s most likely going to be marijuana. Two significant studies found that drivers with THC in their blood were roughly twice as likely to be culpable for a fatal crash than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol.

However, the role played by marijuana in crashes is often unclear because it can be detected in body fluids for days or even weeks after intoxication and because people frequently combine it with alcohol. So just because it was detected, doesn’t mean it can be linked as the direct cause to the crash. 

Those involved in vehicle crashes with THC in their blood, particularly higher levels, are three to seven times more likely to be responsible for the incident than drivers who had not used drugs or alcohol. The risk associated with marijuana in combination with alcohol appears to be greater than that for either drug by itself.

Younger teens and older adult drivers are most often affected by drugged driving. Teens are less experienced and are more likely than other drivers to underestimate or not recognize dangerous situations. They are also more likely to speed and allow less distance between vehicles. When lack of driving experience is combined with drug use, the results can be tragic. Car crashes are the leading cause of death among young people aged 16 to 19 years.

A study of college students with access to a car found that 1 in 6 had driven under the influence of a drug other than alcohol at least once in the past year. Marijuana was the most common drug used, followed by cocaine and prescription pain relievers.

Mental decline in older adults can lead to taking a prescription drug more or less often than they should or in the wrong amount. Older adults also may not break down the drug in their system as quickly as younger people. These factors can lead to unintended intoxication while behind the wheel of a car.

Consequences of Drugged Driving

A driver arrested for drugged driving in Minnesota will be charged with a DWI. The same DWI penalties that apply to drunk driving also apply to drugged driving. Likewise, a drugged driving incident is considered as a prior offense for future DWI sentencing.

Minnesota has a zero tolerance per se drugged driving law enacted for controlled substances, but that does not include cannabis or cannabis metabolites. 

The law states, “It is a crime for any person to drive, operate, or be in physical control of any motor vehicle … when the person’s body contains any amount of a controlled substance in schedule I or II other than marijuana or tetrahydrocannabinols.

Because driving is such a common activity, it’s easy to forget how you really must stay alert to stay safe. While it may seem like your body goes on automatic when accelerating or changing lanes, your brain is actually in high gear. Drugs and alcohol interfere with the brain’s ability to function properly. Tetrahydrocannabinol, which is the main active ingredient in marijuana, affects areas of the brain that control your body’s movements, balance, coordination, memory, and judgment.

Remember, Minnesota has a zero tolerance DWI offense policy – if a person tests positive for schedule I and II controlled substances or associated metabolites other than marijuana and tetrahydrocannabinols. Actual impairment is not a necessary element of this offense.

Minnesota DWI law is complex, and the facts of every case are different. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced DWI attorney in your area. A qualified DWI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

Fortunately, defendants in DWI cases may have their charges dismissed if they are able to present credible evidence that they were taking a Schedule I or Schedule II medication as prescribed by their doctor or an approved marijuana health practitioner when they were arrested and charged with DWI.  However, this often means that the defendant will have to testify in their own defense, which could be construed as a violation of their constitutional rights and their right to a fair trial. Notwithstanding these potential pitfalls, many defendants who have that type of evidence available to them do choose to testify. With the help of an experienced and skilled Minnesota marijuana attorney, that evidence can be presented to the court to boost the chance that their criminal DWI case will be dismissed by a judge. If you’ve been arrested for DWI under the influence of medical cannabis, the office of Minnesota DWI and marijuana defense lawyer Gerald Miller is here to help you. Call us today at 612-440-4610. Contact us anytime. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind.

About Gerald Miller, P.A.

Were you or someone you love arrested for DWI? The process can be worrisome – or even frightening. There is a lot of legal jargon to weave through and court dates to attend.

You’re not alone. We can help, whether it’s your first DWI  or if you’ve been convicted in the past. 

If you are facing a Minnesota DWI conviction, the experienced Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller, P.A. will review your case and determine the best course of action. We will guide you through the process, working toward a positive outcome no matter the circumstances of the arrest. Our firm has a high success rate. We’ve fought cases all the way to the Minnesota Supreme Court. We dig into every aspect of the case, from the time of the arrest the officer’s actions to the accuracy of your Breathalyzer test.

What makes Gerald Miller different from other Minnesota criminal defense lawyers?

The Minneapolis lawyers at Gerald Miller handle all aspects of criminal law across the Twin Cities and statewide, but we have focused on DWIs for nearly 40 years. A DWI affects your driving ability, your finances, and your professional reputation. Don’t let one mistake negatively impact your future. 

We have earned dozens of positive Google, Yelp and Facebook reviews from satisfied clients. Our firm is widely recognized throughout the Twin Cities for our professionalism, compassion, knowledge, and dedication both in and out of the courtroom. The Minneapolis DWI attorneys at Gerald Miller DWI Law Firm are respected by our peers, colleagues, judges, and prosecutors. We have earned national awards and accolades from the American Bar Association, The National Trial Lawyers, the American Institute of DWI/DUI Attorneys, the National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys, the National Academy for DUI Defense, and more. 

Gerald Miller, P.A. also has received the elite “SuperLawyer” distinction by Thomson Reuters. 

Legal Counsel is Critical to Success

The sooner you contact us, the faster we can start protecting your rights.  Even if your case cannot be dismissed, the charges may be reduced, which is a positive outcome. It also helps if you were cooperative at the time of your arrest and if you followed the court’s requirements prior to your hearing, including completing an alcohol assessment and/or DWI classes.

Contact us today to schedule your free and confidential case evaluation at 612-430-6743. We are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to give you some answers, a little hope, and plenty of well-deserved peace of mind. Visit www.geraldmillerlawyer.com or check us out on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

 

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