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Criminal Justice & Legal System

State Supreme Court: limits on immunity for medical marijuana patients

Medical Marijuana
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Having a Michigan medical marijuana card does not provide sweeping immunity from drug charges, according to a ruling from the state Supreme Court. But, at the same time, the unanimous opinion says prosecutors can’t argue a single misstep proves a cardholding caretaker under the law is a drug dealer.

The opinion was written by Republican Justice Brian Zahra, who expressed frustration that the court’s been required to deal with nine cases in the seven years since the medical marijuana law was adopted by Michigan voters: 

“The many inconsistencies in the law have caused confusion for medical marijuana caregivers and patients, law enforcement, attorneys, and judges, and have consumed valuable public and private resources to interpret and apply it.”

And most of that confusion surrounds immunity protections for caregivers who have medical marijuana cards and provide marijuana to others.

In two cases, the Supreme Court ordered new hearings on whether the defendants are entitled to immunity. The defendants argued that their status as medical marijuana cardholders trumped other factors. The state Supreme Court, in a unanimous ruling, said it’s up to courts to decide on a case-by-case basis whether cardholders are complying with all the rules, and when they’re not, cardholders can be prosecuted.

“People get a card and they think it’s Teflon and it’s not,” Denise Pollicella of Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan. She says the decision will set some useful guidelines for how caregivers, police, and prosecutors should behave.

The decision comes as the Legislature is considering a law that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate, and some full-legalization advocates are eyeing the 2016 ballot. 

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