This article chronicles the implementation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, passed via referendum in the 2008 general election. Needlessly to say, once applied to our human tapestry, the MMA has been put through some already-classic judicial interpretations, with a strong promise of more to come.
The Michigan Legislature passed the MMA on December 4, 2008, making Michigan the 13th state to permit the cultivation and possession of marijuana for medical purposes. The Act cited a number of findings related to the beneficial uses of marijuana in treating nausea, pain along with other effects from a selection of debilitating medical ailments. unhappy carts The Act also notes that in line with the FBI, 99% of all marijuana possession arrests nationwide are done pursuant to state, rather than federal law. It is important to remember that possession of the drug remains illegal under federal law.
The MMA defines a “debilitating condition” as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, hepatitis C, and other diseases along with other chronic afflictions which cause pain and nausea. A “primary caregiver” means, “a person who is at least 21 yrs . old and who has decided to assist with a patient’s medical use of marijuana and who hasn’t been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs.” A “qualifying patient” is “somebody who has been diagnosed by way of a physician as having a debilitating medical condition.”
The essential mechanics of the Act provide that qualifying patients and primary care providers (marijuana growers) must have a very “registry identification card”, issued by the Department of Community Health. Thousands of applications have been processed; many thousands remain pending with more filed every week; the demand for certification, for marijuana, is seemingly insatiable within Michigan.
The popular is understandable. Cardholders aren’t subject to arrest or prosecution for marijuana possession/distribution provided the patient keeps significantly less than 2.5 ounces of smokeable pot. Care providers are allowed to maintain around 12 plants for every qualified patient; stems, seeds and unusable roots do not count toward the plant limitation.
Physicians likewise have immunity from prosecution relative to their certification of the patient’s dependence on the drug, as long as they conduct an assessment of the patient’s health background. A legitimate physician-patient relationship is necessary.
Because the U.S. Supreme Court decided the case of Conant vs Walters in 2003, physicians have already been in a position to recommend a patient’s usage of marijuana (but cannot prescribe pot by placing the recommendation on a prescription form). Doctors may also take notes regarding their recommendations in the patient’s chart and will testify with respect to a patient’s medical usage of marijuana in a court of law. The Supreme Court’s Conant decision paved just how for passage of the MMA.
Primary care providers may receive compensation because of their marijuana. Selling marijuana paraphernalia is allowed beneath the MMA, and such paraphernalia cannot be seized.
Persons merely present through the usage of marijuana for medical purposes likewise are not subject to arrest.
Sound too good to be true? When marijuana is distributed to persons other than qualifying patients, the registration card is revoked, and the provider is at the mercy of a 2-year felony. Also, driving while consuming marijuana remains illegal, as does smoking in public. Use or possession of pot on school premises or on school buses remains prohibited. And yes, it remains illegal to smoke in a jail or a penitentiary, regardless of your condition.
The Act set a brief timetable (120-days) for the Department of Community Health to promulgate regulations for the administration of the possession/distribution credential. The delay in the promulgation of the regulations gave way to confusion among law enforcement, the public and some judges as to what is legal and what is illegal.
For example, this year’s 2009 Redden case from Madison Heights involved a couple of arrested during a drug-raid. The couple had requested certification cards ahead of their arrest and received the cards per month after their arrest. In dismissing the case brought contrary to the two defendants, 43rd District Judge Robert Turner characterized the MMA as, “the worst piece of legislation I’ve seen in my entire life”, according to the Detroit News. Judge Turner’s dismissal was appealed by the Oakland County Prosecutor where it was affirmed in the Oakland County Circuit Court.
Earlier this year, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed Oakland Circuit Court Judge Martha Anderson’s reinstatement of the criminal charges against Redden and Clark. Now, the accused Madison Heights couple will either need to plead or go to trial.
At the time of the raid on the couple’s residence, the Oakland County Sheriff seized 1.5 ounces of pot, some nominal cash, and about 21 small plants. Three weeks prior to the raid, each defendant had submitted to a medical certification exam with Dr. Eric Eisenbud (not making it up) of Colorado (and of the recently founded Hemp and Cannabis Foundation Medical Clinic) and applied for a medical marijuana card pursuant to the MMA. Their cards, however, was not issued during the raid.
At the couple’s preliminary examination before Judge Turner, the prosecutor argued that: a) the defendants were required to avoid “medicating” with marijuana while their applications to hawaii of Michigan’s Department of Community Health were pending; and b) the defendants didn’t have a real physician-patient relationship with Dr. Eisenbud.
Judge Turner indicated that the MMA was confusing in accordance with what constituted a reasonable amount of marijuana. The defendants in this instance were found with an ounce and a half; the MMA allows 2.5 ounces.