Fact Finder 'Rights and Wrongs of Marijuana': Confusion at state line
ST. JOSEPH COUNTY —
Confusion at the state line. Marijuana is legal in states like Colorado and Oregon.
In Michigan, people with medical marijuana cards are allowed to use but once you cross over into Indiana you are breaking the law -- even if you used weeks ago.
Roommates and friends Joshua Borsodi and Tyler Wiening are medical marijuana users. For Borsodi, it eases pain in his hand.
"Some days I can control it. Some days I can't," says Borsodi.
For Wiening, it helps control his chronic back pain.
"Relaxes me, calms me. eases it," says Wiening.
The men live in Niles and are careful with what they call their "medicine."
"I follow the rules, I follow the laws. I know my laws. I stay on top of them. I stay within guidelines and don't step outside them," says Borsodi.
That's important because while medical marijuana card holders can use the drug in Michigan, when they step across the state line the rules change.
"Your law stops at the border," says St. Joseph County Deputy Prosecutor Eric Tamashasky, "it is basically the drug equivalent to the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. Once you cross the bridge it is a whole different set of rules."
Tamashasky says no matter what, marijuana is off limits in Indiana.
"For our perspective, the way Indiana law works-- if you have marijuana in your system you are committing a crime," he says.
Toxicologists say the drug can stay in your system as long as 30 days.
That means, even if you haven't used for weeks you could still be committing a crime in Indiana if you get behind the wheel.
"So you can basically be a DUI ticking time bomb for weeks after you smoked," says Tamashasky, "it is not relevant if you smoked where it is legal and now are cruising around in Indiana. Should that result show up in a toxicology test, you are subject to a DUI charge."
Paul Stanko is a Criminal Defense Attorney in South Bend. He defends people who face legal challenges about marijuana.
"I've had clients who have medical marijuana cards and they use it for pain management or nausea, appetite issues, cancer," says Stanko.
Many of Stanko's clients find themselves in trouble behind the wheel.
"It could be anything: speeding, tail light out. This happens all the time," says Stanko.
In fact, the law is similar in Michigan. Even if you are a medical marijuana card holder.
"Medical marijuana patents and caregivers don't have the luxury of making other mistakes in their lives that would have no consequences for someone who is not a medical marijuana patient or caregiver -- fights with neighbors, driving errors -- anything that brings law enforcement into your life could be a problem for a patient or caregiver," says Daniel Grow, a criminal defense attorney in Southwest Michigan.
Grow's practice is almost exclusively focused on the defense of people with medical marijuana issues. One of the issues that keeps him busy is employment. His office, along with the ACLU, tried to bring legal action against Wal-Mart after the company fired a man with inoperable brain cancer because he used marijuana.
"Ultimately, the federal courts decided the protections in the language of Michigan's medical marijuana act does not extend to private employers," says Grow.
That means, you can be fired from your job, even if you use the drug legally. The same is true in Indiana.
"I advise people to maintain their level of privacy just as if they were doing something illegal," says Grow, "just because you have a medical marijuana card doesn't mean it is a good reason to talk about it, let anyone know you are a patient, certainly let anyone know you are growing marijuana because the risk of law enforcement is too great."
That is the rule that Borsodi and Wiening follow.
"The way I look at it is it is for my eyes and my eyes only," says Wiening.
It is not only a legal issue but a safety and security issue too. The men say when they got their medical marijuana card, they also had to give up their guns because of Michigan law.
Marijuana is still illegal under federal law no matter what state you are in.