Michigan State Police Halt Marijuana Blood Testing Over Accuracy Issues
The Michigan State Police Crime Lab on Thursday, Aug. 25, advised prosecutors statewide that there was an issue with marijuana blood testing.
“The MSP Forensic Sciences Division is investigating a discrepancy discovered earlier this week in THC blood test results in which the presence of CBD in a blood sample may have led to a positive result for THC,” said said MSP spokeswoman Shanon Banner in an email sent to MLive on Friday. “Out of an abundance of caution (MSP) today advised the Michigan Prosecutors Association that we are immediately halting processing of all THC blood samples while we work to learn more and/or until we may institute another validated test method to ensure accuracy.”
The toxicology test confuses CBD, which does not induce a high, with THC, the psychoactive compound in marijuana, according to a verbal notice provided to the president of the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) and the county prosecutor of Eaton, Doug Lloyd.
CBD is not a controlled substance.
“We have been alerted by the MSP Crime Lab that there is likely an issue with toxicology screens for blood testing for marijuana results,” said an email sent to statewide prosecutors Thursday by the executive director of the association of prosecutors, Cheri L. Bruinsma. “They learned very recently that the test was unable to distinguish between THC and CBD. They strive to understand what is at stake and the extent of the problem. They expect to have additional information in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have a case that relies on a THC toxicology test, you shouldn’t rely on that result.
It’s unclear how many outstanding cases could be affected by the testing issue, how long the issue has persisted, or whether it could result in the overturning of previous convictions based on marijuana blood tests.
Lloyd said he has instructed his assistant prosecutors to put all cases that rely heavily on marijuana blood tests on hold.
Jackson County District Attorney Jerry Jarzynka sent a memo informing judges and attorneys in his jurisdiction of the issue. “In the meantime, our office will not be able to rely on toxicology screening from the MSP Crime Lab THC,” he wrote.
On Friday, Wayne County District Attorney Kym Worthy’s office also briefed attorneys and judges in his jurisdiction. “It’s important that everyone who might be affected by this is made aware,” she said.
Michael Komorn, a Farmington Hills-based attorney who also specializes in marijuana law and criminal defense, said the issue could throw thousands of convictions across the state into question, depending on how long the issue lasts.
He calls for a full independent investigation of the state police crime lab and the creation of a lab that operates independently of the police force.
Komorn said blood test results for marijuana are frequently used as the basis for prosecuting driving offenses, especially when alcohol is not detected, including crashes resulting in serious injury or death.
“I think it’s time for a new lab,” Komorn said. “Because the procedures and protocols that are used here, if they are flawed and unscientific and they have wrongly convicted people because their tests are wrong, I think a criminal investigation should be initiated. I think people should be held accountable.
Komorn said there are cases involving prison terms or jail time for defendants convicted of causing fatal or bodily accidents while intoxicated, based on test data which, according to him, are now called into question.
The state police had not provided any written communication about the testing issue to the prosecutors’ association as of Friday morning.
“Obviously we’d love that,” Lloyd said. “Something in writing is usually better than something verbal…I think it probably happens, but MSP was trying to do their due diligence to give this information as soon as they know it.
“It is always important that we know and can trust the information we use.”
Lloyd said Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office was made aware of the testing issue. The AG’s office did not respond to a request for comment from MLive.
Learn more about MLive:
MSP roadside drug testing pilot program ends
Just say no to roadside drug testing, lawyers say
Roadside drug testing pilot project extended
Marijuana, the most common drug in road tests
The Do’s and Don’ts of Driving with Marijuana
The booming recreational market in 2020