Michigan Marijuana Patients and Dispensaries Must Closely Adhere to Existing Law

Michigan Marijuana Patients and Dispensaries Must Closely Adhere to Existing Law

  • March 1st, 2017
  • Patrick Barone
  • Marijuana Laws

Because Marijuana remains an illegal schedule one drug in Michigan, any patient or caregiver who does not closely comply with the Medical Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) risks being charged and prosecuted as an ordinary illegal drug user or illegal drug dealer.  A new Michigan case entitled People v. Lewis, involves medical marijuana, and demonstrates exactly why this is true.

In this case, the defendant was charged with multiple counts of delivering marijuana, MCL 333.7401(2)(D)(iii). The defendant was charged as a common drug dealer, even though he thought he followed Michigan’s medical marijuana act.

Here the defendant was an employee at an Ingham County Michigan dispensary/provisioning center through which patrons could purchase medical marijuana. Undercover police officers visited the center and purchased marijuana from defendant simply by filling out an application. No officer presented a medical-marijuana card, and the defendant was not registered with the state as the officers’ caregiver.

At the preliminary examination, the prosecution argued that the sale of marijuana, as opposed to the transfer or delivery of marijuana, was prohibited by the MMMA.[i] The district court disagreed and dismissed all charges on the theory that defendant was immune from prosecution because the transactions at issue constituted the “medical use” of marijuana under MCL 333.26424. This decision was ultimately reversed by the court of appeals. The district court then bound the defendant over.

The circuit court then dismissed the charges, finding that the officers entrapped defendant by submitting false documents to him and that defendant acted reasonably by relying on the paperwork submitted to him. At the prosecution’s request, the circuit court then ruled on defendant’s additional arguments, finding that there was probable cause to support the district court’s bindover and dismissing as moot defendant’s request to present a § 8 defense. In addition, defendant was operating under a business model that facilitated illegal activity; he sold marijuana to individuals without being their registered caregiver.

The court of appeals reversed again, this time finding that there was no entrapment. As it relates to the issue of whether the defendant should be allowed to present a defense under § 8 of the MMMA, MCL 333.26428, at trial the court of appeals found this claim to be premature. The circuit court dismissed the charges against defendant because it found that he was entrapped by the police and dismissed the § 8 claim as moot. The court of appeals ruled that, on remand, the circuit court may further address the issue.

The moral of this story is clear; if you are a medical marijuana caregiver or patient, then it is important for you to consult with a lawyer before engaging in any behavior that might be construed by the police to be in violation of Michigan’s criminal laws.  Otherwise, you risk being subject to long periods of incarceration, and/or significant legal fees in attempting to demonstrate compliance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

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[i] State v McQueen, 293 Mich App 644; 811 NW2d 513 (2011), aff’d on other grounds, 493 Mich 135 (2013).

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  • About the Author Attorney Patrick Barone is well-known and well respected throughout the legal community. As a professor, guest speaker and author he shares his knowledge of drunk-driving defense with lawyers and judges to help them better understand this complex area of law. Mr Barone is the co-author of two highly regarded books including Defending Drinking Drivers and Michigan DUI Law – a Citizen’s Guide. Also, Super Lawyers Magazine recently recognized his unique approach to law in their article “Walking in Their Shoes.”
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