Court opinions/rulings give patients and caregivers new hope

      The opinions issued by Michigan’s Supreme Court in the past months have given new hope to members of the Medical Marijuana Program. Since the inception of the Act, hundreds of patients and caregivers have found themselves wrongly thrown into the criminal justice system. Incidents ranging from minor technical violations (such as not locking a grow facility), to operating a vehicle while in the presence of Marijuana have led to innocent people getting swept into criminal court for the first time in their lives. Some of the major cases (including People v. King, and People v. Kolanek) initially ruled that in order to assert a section 8 defense, all requirements outlined in section 4 must be met. In other words, if you are complying with all aspects of the statute, but one detail was overlooked (such as having a closed and locked facility) you can no longer assert a medical marijuana defense. These initial rulings had dire consequences for other patients and caregivers who willingly let law enforcement officials into their houses, believing they were in full compliance with the Act. Despite their cooperation, innocent people were charged with felonies, and faced the very real prospect of going to prison.

      Going to court is not cheap. Attorney’s fees alone can easily reach the tens of thousands. Many patients are on SSI or Medicare/Medicaid, and often rely on the compassion of caregivers to provide them with meds for little to no cost. Unable to afford the costs of an aggressive criminal defense, many patients were forced into taking plea deals, often times prohibiting them access to medicine and giving them a criminal record. One cannot monetize the cost of a lost job, children being taken away by CPS, or the emotional toll of having to deal with suddenly being labeled a criminal by society.

      The highest court in our state has recently overturned these rulings. They chose to follow the plain language of the people’s initiative and stated that the lower courts had been too restrictive in their interpretations. With the opinions issued by the King and Kolanek cases, patients and caregivers who were forced to take plea deals now have the opportunity to assert a medical marijuana defense and finally vindicate themselves of the unjust rulings made against them.

Follow the links above for more information on the cases.