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Michigan State Supreme Court Set To Hear Landmark Medical Marijuana Case

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Tomorrow, the Michigan Supreme Court will hear oral arguments on the landmark dispensary case, People v McQueen. A decision is expected to come down no later than early Spring 2013.


Although it was treated as such by Attorney General Bill Schuette and a few prosecutors around the state, the Court of Appeals ruling in People v McQueen, did not deem dispensaries illegal, or rule on any other legal distribution possibilities.


In the McQueen case, the questions being considered by the Supreme Court focus on the extent of activity allowed in the MMMA allow for individual patients and caregivers, and whether the COA acted appropriately in their decision making.


The McQueen opinion had the effect of a ruling against dispensaries, but those words were never actually included in the decision.


The Court of Appeals ruled, in part, that when medical marijuana patients acquire and transfer medicine with each other, it cannot constitute a sale, because the word “sale” is not included in the definition of Medical Use, in the Act.


The Supreme Court will look at whether or not the COA decision lacked foundation and whether they “legislated from the bench” by creating a crime that did not previously exist. Many believe that the Supreme Court will take issue with the COA’s opinion concerning this part of the case, because, unlike growing, possessing, and distributing , “sales” were not previously illegal in Michigan.


Before the MMMA created these exceptions, it was illegal to distribute cannabis, whether or not money was ever exchanged. The law has never gone so far as to actually prohibit sales, as well. Therefore, there was no reason for “sales” to be included in the definition of Medical Use in the Act, because there was no need to create an exception for it.


In the brief submitted to the Supreme Court, by attorneys Matt Newburg and Mary Chartier on behalf of the defendants Matt Taylor and Brandon McQueen, it is pointed out that Michigan has a similar code for pharmaceutical drugs, as the MMMA for medical marijuana. In the law permitting the necessary components for manufacturing and distributing prescription drugs, there is no special inclusion or extra mention for “sales” to legally take place. Yet, prescription drugs are obviously sold in pharmacies every day. Newburg and Chartier ask the Supreme Court; why should a special exception for sales be needed for medical marijuana, but not for pharmaceutical medication?


Upholding the COA’s ruling will not change current law. Although such a decision by the Supreme Court would certainly be seen as validation that dispensaries are illegal by those who oppose safe access distribution centers.


However, the Supreme Court does not typically accept cases that it does not plan to seriously consider making changes to, or reversing. The Supreme Court has already ruled favorably in the first two medical marijuana cases it has agreed to hear; People v King and People v Kolanek. In the SC’s unanimous 7-0 decision, the shortcomings of the COA in their rulings were pointed out in no uncertain terms, as was the importance of the ballot language and what the voters intended when overwhelmingly approving the People’s initiative in 2008.


The Attorney General and the activist judges on the Court of Appeals have crafted rulings, interpretations, and opinions that were designed with the explicit intent of effectively repealing the MMMA by making it too prohibitive and restrictive for people to participate in. Their narrow interpretation does not reflect the plain language of the statute and the intent of the voters who put it in place.


It is unclear to what extent of related possible issues the Supreme Court will be compelled to cover in P v McQueen, and what the final determinations will be. So far, they have proven to be the judicial safety net we hoped for.






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