Marijuana activists across Michigan are feeling a little less discriminated against after a couple of state Supreme Court decisions favorable to their cause.
Nobody's dancing around throwing buds of their favorite cannabis strains into the air, but marijuana activists across Michigan are feeling a little less discriminated against after a couple of state Supreme Court decisions favorable to their cause.
Most folks who pay attention to the legal wrangling over the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) expected the high court to settle contentions about the details of the law. But few expected the conservative court would rule so definitively on its first MMMA cases. On May 31, in a 7-0 decision, the high court came down on the side of registered medical marijuana patients and caregivers in the case of People vs. King.
Citing the "plain language" of the law, Justice Mary Beth Kelly wrote an unambiguous opinion supporting the right of registered patients and caregivers to defend themselves in court using the MMMA. In a number of cases prosecutors have used a legal technicality to convince judges to disallow the so-called affirmative defense. For instance, one provision of the MMMA is that anyone growing medical marijuana must keep it in "enclosed, locked facilities." In the King case out of Owosso, the defendant was growing marijuana outdoors in a padlocked dog kennel with a six-foot-high, chain-link fence. Prosecutors argued that this wasn't secure because there was no roof; therefore King could not use the MMMA to defend himself. "They reversed a whole bunch of Court of Appeals precedent that has prevented patients from raising the affirmative defense," said attorney Matt Abel of the Cannabis Counsel law office. "I'm pleased with the decision; it's a correct interpretation of the law. It's a telling rebuke, perhaps, to the Court of Appeals. It would be hard not to notice."
That rebuke came in the form of an unusual 10-point appendix at the end of the opinion in the King case that plainly states the intent of the people in voting for the MMMA and refutes the arguments prosecutors have made against medical marijuana patients and caregivers. "In light of the need for guidance regarding the medical use of marijuana in Michigan, the following is designed to summarize our numerous holdings in these cases," Kelly wrote. The opinion can be found at tinyurl.com/7utor4l. The gist of the opinion is that the protections of the MMMA should be defined broadly rather than in the narrow manner espoused by state Attorney General Bill Schuette.
"The court voted unanimously on King," says attorney Stewart Friedman. "This is from a court which rarely speaks unanimously. I thought that was an interesting note. The 10-point summary, which I've never seen before, spoke in a number of ways that was really cutting to the chase, as though they were expecting the ruling to be read by a hostile audience. The overarching read that I took on the King case, is they were saying, 'Knock it off, the voters have spoken. You might not like what the people have to say but you've got to honor it.'"