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How Much Marijuana Can a Caregiver in Michigan Legally Possess?

Sep 7th, 2016 Marijuana Laws

Like so many other things in law, it depends.  But under certain circumstances, the answer can be “yes.”

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) indicates that a caregiver may possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana per registered qualifying patient and may care for as many as five patients.  So how then can a caregiver possess more than five pounds of marijuana?

Under the MMMA a medical marijuana patient may individually possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and up to 12 plants.  So, a medical marijuana patient who is also a caregiver for the maximum five qualifying patients may possess up to a total of 15 ounces of “usable” marijuana and as many as 72 plants.

But 15 ounces is a lot less than 5 pounds, right?  So how can someone in Michigan legally possess more than 5 pounds of marijuana? Well, like a famous case in history, “it depends on what the meaning of the word “is” is.  The MMMA says a caregiver may possess up to 2.5 ounces of “usable” marihuana.  But what exactly does “usable” mean?  What exactly is usable marijuana?  Or maybe a different way to look at it is, how much does 72 plants weight?

It’s fair to say that the MMMA does not, on its own, answer these questions.  This means we have to turn to the courts for interpretation.  In the case of People v. Randall, the defendant was charged (and convicted at a bench trial) a bench trial of manufacturing more than 20 but less than 200 marijuana plants, MCL 333.7401(2)(d)(ii), and possession of marijuana, MCL 333.7403(2)(d).

In this case, the police found 22 marijuana plants growing in hydroponic systems, another 23 plants in a second office, and 20 plants in a blue tub in a Jeep, for a total of 68 plants. At a hearing a police officer testified that other marijuana was found in “[d]rying states,” which he described as having “been removed from the root system.”  The trial court found that marijuana does not have to be totally dry to be usable, and therefore, that the defendant’s motion to dismiss was denied.

On appeal the court found that “because the material seized in the building was not “dried,” it was not usable marijuana under the MMMA.”  Thus, the conviction was improper because the amount possessed fell under the protections of § 4 of the MMMA.

This then leads to the definition of “dried.”  If the court finds that a caregiver has more than 15 ounces of marijuana that is perhaps not fully dry but is “dry enough” to be usable, then it might just be up to a jury to decide the meaning of dry.  See, e.g., People v. Rocafort.  In this case “largely dried” was dried enough!

Needless to say, the MMMA is confusing and perhaps even contradictory.  In Michigan both patients and caregivers should understand that under certain circumstances, the MMMA provides for both immunities from prosecution (section 4) as well as several affirmative defenses that may be raised during prosecution (section 8).  It is often unclear when these apply to any given case.  If you are a caregiver or patient it is recommended that you seek legal advice to avoid possible prosecution for the use, possession or manufacture of marijuana.