The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act: THE INITIAL 24-Months

This article chronicles the implementation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, passed via referendum in the 2008 general election. As expected, once put on our human tapestry, the MMA has been subjected to some already-classic judicial interpretations, with a strong promise of more to come.

The Michigan Legislature passed the MMA on December 4, 2008, making Michigan the 13th state to permit the cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical purposes. The Act cited a series of findings related to the beneficial uses of marijuana in treating nausea, pain and other effects from a selection of debilitating medical conditions. The Act also notes that based on the FBI, 99% of all marijuana possession arrests nationwide are done pursuant to convey, rather than federal law. big chief carts You should remember that possession of the drug remains illegal under federal law.

The MMA defines a “debilitating condition” as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases along with other chronic afflictions which cause pain and nausea. A “primary caregiver” is defined as, “a person who reaches least 21 years old and who has decided to help with a patient’s medical usage of marijuana and who has never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs.” A “qualifying patient” is “a person who has been diagnosed by a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.”

The basic mechanics of the Act provide that qualifying patients and primary care providers (marijuana growers) must possess a “registry identification card”, issued by the Department of Community Health. Thousands of applications have been processed; plenty remain pending with an increase of filed every week; the demand for certification, for marijuana, is seemingly insatiable within Michigan.

The popular is understandable. Cardholders are not at the mercy of arrest or prosecution for marijuana possession/distribution provided the individual keeps significantly less than 2.5 ounces of smokeable pot. Care providers are allowed to maintain around 12 plants for each qualified patient; stems, seeds and unusable roots usually do not count toward the plant limitation.

Physicians also have immunity from prosecution in accordance with their certification of the patient’s need for the drug, as long as they conduct an assessment of the patient’s medical history. A legitimate physician-patient relationship is necessary.

Because the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Conant vs Walters in 2003, physicians have already been in a position to recommend a patient’s use of marijuana (but cannot prescribe pot by placing the recommendation on a prescription form). Doctors may also make notes regarding their recommendations in the patient’s chart and may testify on behalf of a patient’s medical usage of marijuana in a court of law. The Supreme Court’s Conant decision paved just how for passing of the MMA.

Primary care providers may receive compensation for their marijuana. Selling marijuana paraphernalia also is allowed beneath the MMA, and such paraphernalia cannot be seized.

Persons merely present during the usage of marijuana for medical purposes likewise are not subject to arrest.

Sound too good to be true? When marijuana is distributed to persons apart from qualifying patients, the registration card is revoked, and the provider is subject to a 2-year felony. Also, driving while under the influence of marijuana remains illegal, as does smoking in public. Use or possession of pot on school premises or on school buses remains prohibited. And yes, it remains illegal to smoke in a jail or perhaps a penitentiary, regardless of your condition.

The Act set a short timetable (120-days) for the Department of Community Health to promulgate regulations for the administration of the possession/distribution credential. The delay in the promulgation of the regulations gave way to confusion among law enforcement, the public and some judges in regards to what is legal and what is illegal.

For example, this year’s 2009 Redden case from Madison Heights involved a couple of arrested during a drug-raid. The couple had requested certification cards prior to their arrest and received the cards per month after their arrest. In dismissing the case brought contrary to the two defendants, 43rd District Judge Robert Turner characterized the MMA as, “the worst little bit of legislation I’ve seen in my entire life”, based on the Detroit News. Judge Turner’s dismissal was appealed by the Oakland County Prosecutor where it had been affirmed in the Oakland County Circuit Court.

Earlier this season, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Oakland Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson’s reinstatement of the criminal charges against Redden and Clark. Now, the accused Madison Heights couple will either need to plead or go to trial.

During the raid on the couple’s residence, the Oakland County Sheriff seized 1.5 ounces of pot, some nominal cash, and about 21 small plants. Three weeks prior to the raid, each defendant had submitted to a medical certification exam with Dr. Eric Eisenbud (not rendering it up) of Colorado (and of the recently founded Hemp and Cannabis Foundation Medical Clinic) and applied for a medical marijuana card pursuant to the MMA. Their cards, however, had not been issued during the raid.

At the couple’s preliminary examination before Judge Turner, the prosecutor argued that: a) the defendants were necessary to abstain from “medicating” with marijuana while their applications to hawaii of Michigan’s Department of Community Health were pending; and b) the defendants didn’t have a bona fide physician-patient relationship with Dr. Eisenbud.

Judge Turner indicated that the MMA was confusing relative to what constituted a reasonable quantity of marijuana. The defendants in this instance were found with an ounce and a half; the MMA allows 2.5 ounces.