Voters in Michigan approved the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes in 2008. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act allows the use of marijuana to alleviate symptoms of certain medical conditions and illnesses, provided that the patient obtains written certification from a doctor stating the drug will be of benefit to the patient and obtains a state-issued registry identification card.
There are over 131,000 medical marijuana patients in the state and each may possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and have up to 12 plants in an enclosed and locked facility. The state also authorized registered caregivers the right to grow plants for their charges.
Opponents and supporters of the Act agree that the law regarding medical marijuana is ill-defined, leaving much open to interpretation by local law enforcement agencies and prosecutors. The state Attorney General has been pushing to shut down dispensaries and won a victory when the Court of Appeals handed down a decision last year stating it is illegal for shops to broker marijuana sales.
However, the ruling has not stopped all medical marijuana shops. In some towns, police and prosecutors are ignoring dispensaries, stating they are busy dealing with more important crimes. Also, earlier this year, a county judge dismissed drug conspiracy charges against seven defendants who ran a large dispensary. The judge agreed with their attorneys and found that the defendants lacked criminal intent because they believed they were complying with state laws.
The definition of what constitutes an “enclosed, locked facility” is one of two issues currently before the Michigan Supreme Court. One case involves the arrest of a man who grew his marijuana plants in an enclosed and locked dog kennel in his backyard. The police arrested him because the kennel did not have a roof. The other case deals with the timing of obtaining doctor approval and the id card in order to be legally protected by the Act.
Both issues will have long-term ramifications for the state patients who rely on the relief medical marijuana provides. Even if the Supreme Court decides in favor of users of medical marijuana, the Act still has loopholes and murky definitions.
Do not assume that the Act will protect you if you are arrested for possession of or growing marijuana. No drug charge is minor. Seek the help of a lawyer who knows both sides of the law regarding drug crimes. An experienced attorney can help you assess your legal options and provide competent counsel.