The Michigan Supreme Court recently issued its ninth ruling relative to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, a move that prompted prosecutors to drop at least five pending criminal cases for alleged unlawful distribution of the drug. The civil forfeiture cases connected to those five cases will also be dismissed, and the items seized will be returned.
Prosecutors weren’t eager to drop the charges, but felt they had no choice but to do so in light of the most recent state high court ruling.
The state supreme court noted the frequency with which it has had to continue trying to interpret the state’s marijuana law, with one justice saying in a unanimous opinion that the law lacked procedural scrutiny that resulted in the law being unclear, inconsistent and difficult to interpret. What’s more, the act can only be modified with approval from three-fourths the representatives in both chambers of the state legislature.
The inconsistencies in the law, the justices said, have lead to widespread confusion among medical marijuana patient and caregivers, attorneys, law enforcement, prosecutors and judges – primarily concerning immunity and affirmative defense. Both issues were weighed by the court in the most recent case, in which two medical marijuana patients were charged with a host of marijuana-related offenses.
One was accused and later convicted of manufacturing and possessing marijuana with intent to deliver. It was disputed exactly how many plants he was growing, but the intent was to keep some of the plants to treat his own illness, but also to distribute to other medical marijuana patients with whom he was properly connected. Police raided his home after receiving a tip and arrested him. Trial court barred him from citing immunity as a defense under state law because, although the other patients with whom he was connected were in fact registered, defendant did not know about the extent of their debilitating conditions.
In another case, defendant was convicted of delivering marijuana, manufacturing marijuana and possession with intent to deliver, plus two counts of firearm possession in the commission of a felony. But the thing was, he was licensed to grow marijuana. However, he was reportedly caught selling the drug to a patient for whom he was not a caregiver. Sheriff’s deputies raided his home and discovered the drugs, as well as a gun locked in a safe.
The state supreme court decided both cases needed to back to trial for evidentiary hearings to determine whether they are entitled to immunity under state law.
In the first case, law enforcement never proved exactly how many plants defendant was growing, and that question is central to whether he’ll be entitled to immunity under state law. The second defendant may also be able to seek immunity, but he’ll have to ask for it separately on each charge.
Neither was entitled to an affirmative defense because neither had a bonafide doctor-patient relationship with the patients they were supplying.
One patient’s rights advocate said the court may be putting an undue burden on medical marijuana caregivers, and argue there is a need for stronger, clearer rules.
Still, the most recent state supreme court decision came as a relief to a handful of marijuana caregivers who were facing criminal charges. Earlier this year, the Detroit Free Press reported law enforcement seized more than $24 million in assets from people in that state who were never criminally charged, but lost their property to forfeiture anyway.
The Los Angeles CANNABIS LAW Group represents growers, dispensaries, collectives, patients and those facing marijuana charges. Call us at 714-937-2050.
Prosecutors drop marijuana charges against Michigan woman, Aug. 5, 2015, by Beth LeBlanc, Detroit Free Press
More Blog Entries:
Blue Ribbon Commission Report Offers Road Map to Legal Marijuana, July 31, 2015, Los Angeles Marijuana Lawyer Blog