News, updates and analysis on criminal defense in Michigan and how it pertains to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

How Michigan Prosecutors are Dealing with the Legalization of Marijuana

After Michigan decided to legalize recreational marijuana on November 6, 218, several county prosecutors across Michigan have started dismissing cases involving marijuana. Oakland County prosecutors have already tossed various cases with pending charges in the district and circuit court systems. Also, Muskegon County prosecutors have dismissed all pending marijuana cases that comply with the requirements of the recently passed proposal. Kalamazoo, Battle Creek and Calhoun County have also followed suit. While there are still avenues to violating the law, prosecuting offices have been considering what they will do with pending cases involving use, possession, manufacture or delivery.

Clare County prosecutors have plans to dismiss several pending cases limited to possession charges, whereas Kent County is looking into dismissing cases that involve use or possession of marijuana. Most dismissals are based on a case by case basis. In Ingham county, while magistrates are no longer accepting warrant requests for marijuana related crimes, the cases already pending are being looked at closely before being dismissed.

Some counties are not being as lenient however. In Wayne County, a prosecutor has stated that her office is committed to following the law regarding the prosecution of marijuana cases. Additionally, Wexford County is choosing not to dismiss pending cases of any sort. While pending cases are more likely to be dismissed at this time several counties are considering what to do regarding applying the new marijuana statute retroactively to cases that have already been prosecuted.

If you have a pending marijuana charge and want to better understand how the legalization of recreational marijuana will affect your current situation, you need a lawyer that understands Michigan marijuana law. Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at (517) 512-8364.

Michigan Medical Marihuana Criminal Law: Section 8 Affirmative Defense

A registered primary caregiver was charged with manufacturing 20 or more but fewer than 200 marijuana plants, possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony and possessing with intent to deliver 5 kilograms or more but less than 45 kilograms of marihuana. Those are some pretty serious charges. A §8 defense was raised by defendant but the trial court did not allow him to present his affirmative defense at trial. The trial court determined that defendant did not satisfy his burden of presenting prima facie evidence for each element of §8 of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). The element at issue was the existence of a bona fide physician-patient relationship.

Section 8 states that a primary caregiver has the burden of establishing by prima facie evidence the elements of subsection (a)(1) for each patient to whom the primary caregiver is alleged to have unlawfully provided marihuana. The Supreme Court in People v. Hartwick reduced the requirements of (a)(1) into three elements:
1. The existence of a bona fide physician-patient relationship,
2. In which the physician completes a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition, and
3. From which results the physician’s professional opinion that the patient has a debilitating medical condition and will likely benefit from the medical use of marijuana to treat the medical condition.

Defendant and his registered qualifying patients testified about their interactions with a Dr. Kattoo. The Court found that only one patient was able provide evidence to support a bona fide physician-patient relationship. The Court noted that no actual medical records or testimony from  certifying physicians was admitted into evidence. “Without the showing of records the trial court could not determine whether records were created and maintained in accordance with medically-accepted standards.”

A Section 8 defense to a crime involving marijuana is no easy task. Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at 517-512-8364 to speak to a cannabis warrior.

Useable Marihuana and Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act

In People v. Mansour, defendant’s home was searched by police and an indoor marijuana grow operation was discovered in her basement. The grow consisted of 126 plants and approximately 550 grams of marijuana buds on a drying rack. Mansour was charged with 1 count of delivery or manufacture of marijuana and 1 count of delivery or manufacture of 20 or more marijuana plants. Defendant filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on her status as a registered medical marijuana patient, which allows her to be entitled to immunity under §4 of the MMMA.
This provision states that, “a qualifying patient…shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty….for the medical use of marijuana…provided that the qualifying patient possesses an amount of marijuana that does not exceed 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.” MCL 333.26424(a)(emphasis added).
Under MCL 333.26423(n), “usable marijuana” includes the dried leaves and flowers of the marijuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof.” Defendant argued that the 550 grams of marijuana buds were “unusable” because they were not yet dry and therefore must be excluded when considering her claim of immunity under §4 of the MMMA.
Prosecution argued that the precedent of People v. Carruthers, 301 Mich App 590, 609; 837 NW2d 16 (2013), is controlling and that the court must look at the total amount of marijuana defendant was found in possession of, not just the amount of “usable” marijuana. In Carruthers, defendant was found to be possession of marijuana infused brownies which was not considered to be usable marijuana under the MMMA. The Court concluded that if a registered patient is in possession of any marijuana that is not considered usable marijuana then he or she possesses an amount that is in excess of the permitted amount of usable marijuana. Following this decision, the Legislature expanded the MMMA definition of usable marijuana, effective December 2016.
Defendant argued that People v. Manuel, 319 Mich App 291; 901 NW2d 118(2017), should be the controlling precedent of the Court which would limit the amount of marijuana defendant was found in possession of to only the usable marijuana. In Manual, the defendant was both a qualified patient and a primary caregiver which allowed him to be in possession of up to 15 ounces. The amount he was found to be in possession of exceeded 15 ounces, but defendant argued that the marijuana was in “various stages of drying” and therefore was unusable by definition. Id at 123. The Court held that due to the marijuana being unusable defendant was entitled to §4 immunity.
In this case the Court held to interpret §4 immunity as it did in Carruthers, utilizing a two prong test that asks, “whether a possessor of marijuana possesses an allowed quantity of usable marijuana” and further inquiries “whether that person possesses any quantity of marijuana that does not constitute usable marijuana under the term-of-art- definition of the MMMA.” Carruthers, 301 Mich App at 610. Based on this approach, a registered qualifying patient in possession of any amount of marijuana that does not qualify as usable marijuana is not entitled to immunity under §4 of the MMMA. Therefore, defendant is considered to be in possession of marijuana that is not usable so she is not entitled to §4 immunity.

Michigan’s laws on marijuana are constantly changing. Make sure you are not caught off guard and ensure your interests are represented by competent and experienced attorneys who actually know a thing or two about cannabis. Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers today at 517-512-8364.

New Court Of Appeals Case Restricts The Availability of Caregivers to Assert an Immunity Defense Under Section 4 of the MMMA.

The Michigan Court of Appeals released a published opinion that defies logic and removes the availability of an immunity defense under section 4 of the MMMA (MCL 333.n26424) when caregivers possess unusable marihuana. What is unusable marihuana you ask? That would be any marijuana that doesn’t meet the definition of either marihuana plant or usable marihuana.  A marihuana plant is defined in MCL 333. 26423(g) and MCL 333.2642(j) as any cannabis plant that is living and either has viable roots or is in a growing medium.   Usable marijuana is defined in MCL 333.26424(n)  as the “the dried leaves, flowers, plant resin, or extract of the marihuana plant, but does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the plant”.  Based on these two definitions, unusable marihuana is essentially flower and leaf that is not dry.

This means that if patients or caregivers cultivate marihuana they will not be immune from arrest or prosecution under section 4 of the MMMA.  If law enforcements finds you in possession of undried and therefore unusable marihuana you can be arrested and prosecuted and will have to rely on the affirmative defense contained in section 8 of the MMMA (MCL 333.26428) in order to avoid a conviction.  A section 8 affirmative defense places the burden on the defendant to prove a valid defense.  If charged with a crime it will be your burden to prove to the court that you and your patients had  bona-fide patient physician relationships, that the marihuana possessed was a reasonable amount to prevent an uninterrupted supply, and that the marihuana was for medical use.  Since proving a defense in court can be difficult, it is important to hire an attorney who has experience presenting defenses under section 8 of the MMMA.  Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at 517-512-8364 to talk about how this case will affect you and your grow.

driving under the influence of marijuana MICannabislawyers.com

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana In Michigan

Those who have no legal right to possess or consume marihuana face what’s commonly referred to as Michigan’s “zero tolerance” law, meaning that a prosecutor only needs to prove that at the time of driving, you had the presence of THC in your system, regardless of your driving performance.

It’s important to note, however, that the Michigan Supreme Court, in People v. Feezel, No. 138031 (June 9, 2010), determined that 11-carboxy-THC, a metabolite of THC, is not counted against you for the “zero tolerance” law. Currently, the detection threshold at the Michigan State Police Toxicology Unit is one ng/ml of THC. That’s one billionth of a gram of active THC per milliliter of blood.

Interestingly, if you have a medical marihuana card, it must be shown that you were driving under the influence of marijuana to be convicted of operating while intoxicated or “drugged driving.”

Section 7 of the MMMA outlines the specific limitations in which a patient or caregiver will fall outside the framework and not be afforded legal protection under the MMMA. MCL 333.26427(4) states that the Medical Marihuana Act does not permit any person to, “operate, navigate, or be in actual physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, snowmobile, off-road recreational vehicle, or motorboat while under the influence of marihuana.” While some states have developed internal limits of THC for patients while driving, Michigan has yet to impose a nanogram limit for internal possession of marihuana while driving for medical marihuana patients. So, the only way a patient can be convicted of driving under the influence of marihuana is to show that one’s driving ability was substantially lessened because of the presence of THC in their system.

If you happen to find yourself having to deal with a criminal charge for driving under the influence of marijuana, don’t hesitate to reach out to ask some questions and talk about your case.

 

Convictions under the Michigan Motor Vehicle Code remain on your criminal history indefinitely, and you shouldn’t go down without a fight.

Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at 517-512-8364.

Cannabis Attorney Joshua Covert debates Missaukee County Sheriff Jim Bosscher On Legalization

On March 23, 2018 The Cadillac News published an editorial regarding the legalization of marijuana in Michigan.  The editorial featured an anti legalization piece written by Missaukee County Sheriff Jim Bosscher and a pro legalization piece written by Michigan Cannabis Lawyer Joshua Covert.  The editorial written by Mr. Bosscher contained mostly outlandish claims backed up by  references to:  “The Legalization of Marijuana in Colorado: The Impact, Volume 5″,  which was complied in October 2017, by the Rocky Mountain High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area.  This report according to a forbes.com article  contains “indictments masquerading as objective assessments”  and is referred to as “dishonest”.  Further,  the report seems to ignore its own footnotes when reaching conclusions  and the reports executive summary stated that “the information here should be interpreted with caution”.  John Hudak a senior fellow at the nonpartisan Brooking Institute called the report “garbage” in a Denver post article.

Mr. Coverts editorial contradicted many of Mr. Bosscher’s claims and Mr. Covert cited to various reputable studies to do so such as the 2018 study published by the American Medical Association which concluded that those states with legal access to marijuana have lower opiate prescription rates.  Mr. Covert also mentioned a poll conducted by the Colorado Department of Public Health which showed that teen marijuana use is down since legalization began,  the study also mentioned that Colorado has  lower teen use then the national average.

It is good to see that the debate about legalization is heating up and that mainstream media is covering the topic.  It is easy to see though that there is really no debate needed as voters overwhelmingly support legalization and the opposition has to rely on a single biased study that has been called “garbage” by the Brookings Institue.  Expect this topic to gain more traction in the media as it will be up to voters to decide in November of 2018 as the CRMLA (Committee to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol) ballot proposal is headed to the ballot.

Local Ordinances and the Medical Marijuana

This case is a court of appeals case in which a conflict between a local ordinances and medical marijuana laws were at issue. The Charter Township of York ordinance was found to have violated the protections provided by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act(MMMA). The Charter Township of York started the legal proceedings by seeking a declaratory judgment which would have prevented the Defendants from growing their medical marihuana because it violated the local home occupation ordinance and the local ordinance regulating medical marihuana grows.
The issues the Charter Township of York had with the marihuana grow are that it violated the home occupation ordinance because the registered caregiver (the person possessing and cultivating the marijuana plants) did not live at the address and the grow was an outdoor building and not attached to the main residence. These were both violations of the home occupation ordinance. Further, the Charter Township of York also had passed a local ordinance to regulate medical marihuana caregivers. This ordinance did not allow outdoor grows and required all necessary permits to be obtained.
The trial court did not grant the declaratory judgement and held that the local ordinance directly conflicted the MMMA. This meant that the local ordinances as applied in this case were not applicable to local residents who were registered qualifying caregivers under the MMMA.
The Charter Township of York appeal this decision to the Michigan Court of appeals and argued that the zoning law “permitted it to regulate medical marijuana and restrict registered caregivers’ marijuana growing to indoors in areas zoned residential” Charter Township of York v. Miller, 335344, 2018 WL 472187, at *2 (Mich. App. Jan. 18, 2018).
The Michigan Court of appeals in a published decision disagreed with the Charter Townships arguments and the MMMA was ruled to have preempted the local ordinance. The MMA clearly states that “A person shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for providing a registered qualifying patient or a registered primary caregiver with marihuana paraphernalia for purposes of a qualifying patient’s medical use of marihuana” (Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. § 333.26424 (West)).
The result in this case is that only the regulations contained within the Medical marihuana act will apply to your grow. The home occupation ordinance in this case was void as applied to MMMA caregivers and patients and preempted by the MMMA. The regulations prohibiting outdoor grows or growing in unattached buildings was also preempted by the MMMA. The defendants were though required to abide by and obtain the required permits for the construction code and building permits.
This case is important for all caregivers because many local municipalities are creating local ordinances that conflict with the MMMA. If your local township has a local ordinance that you believe conflicts with the MMMA, call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at 517-512-8364.

Joshua Covert of The Michigan Cannabis Lawyers is Interviewed in the Lansing City Pulse

Marijuana attorney Joshua Covert was recently interviewed by the Lansing City Pulse in the annual 4/20 edition.  The article discusses his work as a Cannabis Lawyer and how he fights the drug war.  Read the article here.

Attorney Joshua Covert Speaks at UNRIG THE SYSTEM Event in Lansing

Attorney Joshua Covert

Attorney Joshua Covert speaks at Unrig The System at 4-15-18 in Lansing Michigan.

On Sunday April 15th attorney Joshua Covert spoke at an event in Lansing geared to sharing information about local activism and grassroots efforts to empower citizens to play a larger role in the political process. The event was put on by Unrig The System a nationwide organization with a chapter in Michigan (visit their facebook page here).  Mr. Covert spoke as an attorney and activist involved in marijuana policy reform.  Mr. Covert spoke about his work as a board member of milegalize, a 2016 voter initiative campaign, and how important the voter initiative process is for citizens.

The event was originally scheduled to be held on the State Capitol grounds but because of weather was relocated to the Midtown Brewing Company.  Mr. Covert was pleased to hear the other speakers at the event but was excited to see that longtime friend and fellow cannabis activist Steven Lull (The Green Union) was also on the schedule.  It is important for Mr. Covert to speak to groups about political involvement and activism because of his belief that in our current form of government our legislators often don’t listen to the will of their constituents.  “It is obvious that our government in Lansing hasn’t been listening to the citizens of Michigan in regards to marijuana or cannabis policy reform,  legalization polls extremely high and most metropolitan areas have already legalized marijuana at the local level yet legalization is being done by the people via the voter initiative process and not by our elected legislators.”

 

marijuana driving Michigan Cannabis Lawyers http_www.micannabislawyer.comcriminal-defense-mmma

MMMA Patients and “Obviously High” Marijuana Driving in Michigan

Marijuana Driving in Michigan

In an unpublished case, the Michigan Court of Appeals (People v Donaghy, No. 322677, 2015) interpreted the protections of section 4 of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) in regards to the limitations of section 7(b)(4).  The case involved an individual who was charged with what is commonly known as drugged marijuana driving, a violation of the motor vehicle code MCL 257.625 et. seq.

The facts show that the defendant had tetrahydrocannabinol (THC), the active substance in marijuana as well as alprazolam (Xanax), methadone, and zolpidem (Ambien) in his system.  The defendant at trial requested a jury instruction regarding his medical marihuana use and registry card as a defense to the operating while visibly impaired charge one of the two counts he was facing. The trial court denied the jury instruction request and the defendant appealed the conviction on many grounds.

The Michigan Court of Appeals decided the case and said: “The MMMA’s protections are lost under § 7(b)(4) only when a person operates a vehicle “under the influence” of marijuana. This definition of “under the influence” is determined to be consistent with the phrase’s meaning as a term of art, operating a vehicle while visibility impaired under MCL 257.265(3) as a result of marijuana use, like operating a vehicle while any amount of marijuana is present in a person’s body under MCL 257.265(8), is too low of a threshold to deprive a person with protections under the MMMA that the person would otherwise be entitled to.”  Unfortunately for the defendant, the ruling was not enough as the court upheld his conviction because the protections from a visibly impaired charge that the MMMA provides would not be relevant when the defendant also had the other controlled substances in his system.

What does this mean for a medical marihuana patient who is arrested for operating while visibly impaired?  The answer is DISMISSAL.

 

If you are charged with any crime involving marijuana OR marijuana driving, call attorneys who present a defense and stay current on all the appeal cases.

Call the Michigan Cannabis Lawyers at 517-512-8364.