My team and I spend most of our time handling driver’s license restoration and clearance appeal cases. In any week, we’ll screen loads people who call us about getting their driving privileges restored. If we could take the cases of all the people who contact us and are willing to pay, we’d be swimming in money. We can’t do that, however, and one of the most common reasons right now is because of recreational marijuana. Ever since it was legalized in Michigan, it has become a real problem in the driver’s license restoration world.
I explored this in a recent article entitled “Using Recreational Marijuana will kill a Michigan Driver’s License Restoration Case.” This topic is so important, however, that we need to look at it again. Recently, Ann, our senior assistant, expressed her frustration about recreational pot. She noted that a lot of people who manage to quit drinking suddenly take up smoking weed. It used to be that our biggest “problem” with potential clients was that some of them simply hadn’t completely quit drinking. Now, it’s that they use marijuana.
Within the more than 650 driver’s license restoration articles I have written and published, a lot focus on sobriety. In so many of them, I point out how some people misunderstand the meaning of sobriety. They think that they can win a license appeal by saying things like they had reduced how often or how much they drank. What is most often lacking is a firm and stated commitment to complete abstinence from alcohol. At least with booze, it’s simple: No means no, as in none.
Since recreational marijuana became legal in Michigan in 2018, it has muddied the notions of “abstinence” and “sobriety.” In the context of a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal, “abstinence” has a specific meaning. It includes being free of ALL mind or mood-altering or potentially habit-forming substances. There are some exceptions for the use of medications, but even those are limited. The Secretary of State won’t approve a license if a person uses cannabis for anything other than a serious medical condition. Moreover, this can’t be based on a medical card obtained at some “green clinic.”
Instead, the person will need solid documentation from his or her treating physician that there is no suitable medical alternative. The doctor will have to indicate that he or she knows about the patient’s prior substance abuse history. In addition, he or she must explain how they’re monitoring the patient’s use of marijuana.
No matter what, marijuana is a huge pain in the a$$ in license restoration cases. Before recreational marijuana was legalized, most people understood, or at least accepted that just having a medical card was not a free pass. Now, and for whatever reason(s), lot’s of people don’t get this. When the subject of marijuana comes up, they’ll simply declare, “but it’s LEGAL!”
It’s then that we point out – so is drinking.
Here’s why the Secretary of State is so concerned about both medical and recreational marijuana:
Under Michigan law, any person who racks up 2 DUI’s within 7 years, or 3 DUI’s within 10 years is legally categorized as a “habitual alcohol offender.” As a consequence, any such person is presumed, by law, to have an alcohol problem. Of course, an alcohol problem IS, by definition, a substance abuse problem.
Legally speaking, this means it is a foregone conclusion that anyone who has to file a license restoration or clearance appeal after multiple DUI’s has an alcohol problem.
The relevant part of the main rule (Rule 13) governing license appeals mandates that –
“The hearing officer shall not order that a license be issued to the petitioner unless the petitioner proves, by clear and convincing evidence, all of the following:
That the petitioner’s alcohol or substance abuse problems, if any, are under control and likely to remain under control.”
This means the hearing officer is instructed to DENY the appeal unless the person proves 2 things. This must be done by “clear and convincing evidence”:
First, the person must show that his of her alcohol or substance abuse problems are “under control”. Remember, it is presumed that anyone who has racked up multiple DUI’s has a problem. In those cases, the “if any” language isn’t relevant.
“Under control” means that a person has been completely abstinent for a legally sufficient period of time. The exact amount necessary can vary from case to case. Our firm generally requires a person to have been clean and sober for at least 18 months before we’ll move forward with an appeal.
Second, the person must show that his or her alcohol or substance abuse problems are “likely to remain under control.” Essentially, this requires him or her to prove they have both the ability and the commitment to never drink or use any other substances again – ever. This includes recreational marijuana.
Put another way, a person must demonstrate him or herself to be a safe bet to remain totally clean and sober for life.
Only a small minority of cases involve drugged driving, but the same principle holds true. If you have to seek the restoration of your driver’s license because it was revoked for 2 or more DUI and/or drugged driving convictions, then the state presumes you have some kind of alcohol and/or substance abuse problem.
Clinically speaking, any person in recovery from an alcohol or drug problem must stay clean from ALL substances. He or she must not use anything that can alter his or her mind or mood. Even if rushed to the ER, they’re supposed to disclose their substance use history. This is to prevent then from being given anything addictive.
When it comes to pain relievers, for example, a person should request a non-narcotic medication. The physician should prescribe it unless there is no other suitable medical alternative.
There is a well-known phenomenon in the recovery world about this. Lots of formerly sober people have relapsed after having been prescribed a “risky” medication. To be sure, the medical community could do a better job of asking people about their substance use history. However, anyone who is serious about his or her recovery needs to understand that the burden is on them. They must inform any medical provider about their recovery and not wait to be asked.
For their part, the hearing officers with the Michigan Secretary of State’s Office of Hearings and Administrative Oversight (OHAO) are always concerned about a person’s use of any “risky” medications.
There is no such “concern” about recreational marijuana, however, because it is a complete deal-killer.
Unlike medical marijuana, there is nothing compelling that can be said for the recreational use of marijuana. This is especially true of someone whose drinking had previously gotten out of hand. It is a basic principle of recovery that once a person develops a problem with one substance, he or she must abstain from the use of all other substances. To do otherwise is merely to substitute one drug for another.
That’s like a gambling addict switching from the casino to online slots, or the lottery.
You don’t need to be in AA to win a license appeal. However, those who have spent enough time in the program have heard the warnings about substitution a thousand times over. The same is true for anyone who has had any kind of thorough counseling
A person who is really sober knows he or she can’t use recreational marijuana. If they don’t, then it means he or she doesn’t fully understand what recovery is all about. Of course, nobody should merely deny using recreational marijuana and try to BS his or her way through a license restoration appeal.
I’m not going to argue that nobody has ever fibbed their way through a case. However, the hearing officers start each day knowing they’re going to be lied to. They expect BS. Indeed, a key part of their job is to dig deeper and really test the quality of a person’s claimed sobriety.
I’m saying this because I mean it: My team and I have no interest in taking a case for anyone who is not genuinely sober. We carefully screen our potential clients to make sure they have quit drinking, and don’t use drugs. We need to confirm that they are sober and committed to remaining substance-free.
Our firm guarantees to win every license restoration case we take. That’s predicated on having a client who is honestly clean and sober. Our obligation only ends when we do win. Accordingly, we bank on winning the first time around. The last thing we want to do is take a case for a payday, lose. Then, we’ll have to keep doing the thing all over again without further charge. The very first time that happens, it would double our work and cut our income in half.
Moreover, we put our hearts and souls into our cases. We really believe in what we do. Getting a license back for someone who has honestly done the work to get and stay sober is a good thing. We simply have no interest in doing that for some BS-ing scammer. Accordingly, we thoroughly question every potential client about his or her sobriety.
I don’t know why this basic understanding of recovery seems to have gotten lost recently. I do know that loads of people call us up, explaining how they need their license and claiming to be sober. Then, through our screening, we find out that, while they may have stopped drinking, they are now using recreational marijuana.
That’s not sobriety.
It is, however, a complete obstacle to winning a Michigan driver’s license restoration or clearance appeal case. From our perspective, as Michigan driver’s license restoration attorneys, recreational marijuana has become even more of a pain in the a$$ than medical marijuana ever was.
My team and I have won plenty of case for people who have used medical marijuana. When it comes to recreational pot, however, that’s a complete impossibility. The plain and simple fact is that you can’t you use marijuana recreationally and win a license appeal – period.
If you are looking for a lawyer to win back your drivers’ license or obtain the clearance of a Michigan hold on your driving record so that you can get a license in another state, be a savvy consumer and read around.
See how different lawyers break down the license appeal process. Pay attention to how they explain their various approaches to it. This blog is a great place to start. It has over 650 fully searchable articles (to date) in the driver’s license restoration section. I add 2 new installments each week. There is simply more useful information here than you can find everywhere else combined.
When you’ve done enough reading, start checking around. You can learn a lot by speaking with a live person. Our firm can handle your case not matter where you live. All of our consultations are free, confidential, and done over the phone, right when you call.
My team and I are very friendly people who will be glad to answer your questions, explain things, and even compare notes with anything some other lawyer has told you. We can be reached Monday through Friday, from 8:30 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. (EST) at either 248-986-9700 or 586-465-1980.