Medical Marijuana Patients can’t be prosecuted
Thursday, May 31, 2012, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in favor of Medical Marijuana patients, in the use of an “affirmative defense” regarding misdemeanor and felony marijuana cases. Michigan medical marijuana patients may cite medical reasons for marijuana use and possession as a defense whether they are registered with the state or not (having a medical marijuana card). Following Thursday’s ruling, a patient must now show that a doctor has approved them for use of marijuana as a remedy for treatment. Todd Levitt, Central Michigan student lawyer specializing in medical marijuana cases said, “The high court ruling means that defendants in criminal cases will be allowed to present a defense to a jury that their use of marijuana was for medical purposes.”
In one case ruled on by the court, Owosso resident Larry King, who suffers from severe and chronic back pain, was issued a medical marijuana card in 2009 by the state after being examined and approved by a doctor. He grew 12 marijuana plants for his own medical use. The Shiawassee county prosecutor charged him with manufacturing marijuana, a felony, because some of his plants were being grown outside. Drug charges against King initially were thrown out because he was a medical marijuana patient. But the court of appeals reinstated felony drug charges against him because it held that King would not be permitted to raise a medical defense at his trial. The higher court’s decision reverses the appeals court.
Because the MMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act) was the result of a voter initiative, our goal is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the electorate, rather that the Legislature, as reflected in the language of the law itself. We must give the words of the MMMA their ordinary and plain meaning as would have been understood by the electorate, the Supreme Court opinion states.
This ruling is viewed as a win for defense attorneys and Michigan Medical Marijuana patients, as the “affirmative defense” will now be a clear cut way to keep valid medical marijuana users out of trouble. While police officers are still likely to arrest marijuana users first without asking questions, judges will now be able circumvent these arrests and keep patients records clean. Marijuana however, is still illegal to use, possess, manufacture, or sell in Michigan for recreational use and the “affirmative defense” will not work for those individuals whom face drug charges.
Written by: Adam Finn