Law Talk: Marijuana law guide fits in your pocket
Ever wondered when a marijuana seed legally becomes a plant?
Wondered how someone gets their medical marijuana?
Curious about whether having medical marijuana entitles police to search your home, car or person without a warrant?
Those answers and others may come from local attorney Bruce Alan Block who specializes in representing defendants accused of marijuana offenses.
Block has written and is selling “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers.”
The pocket-sized manual outlines the law in layman’s terms and looks at the vagaries of a law considered poorly written and lacking clarity since it was passed by 63 percent of voters in 2008.
“It’s not a ‘how to’ for growing,” said Block. “I’m no advocate.”
Block said he sees clients who either use medical marijuana or are so-called caregivers and have no prior run-ins with the law but suddenly find themselves facing drug charges.
“This is just cutting through the misinformation,” Block said. “It’s amazing, the stuff you see on Internet blogs.”
Block said the law is so convoluted, even he needs a quick reference for dealing with it, which led him to write the guide for Michigan law.
“If you have this, you won’t need me,” Block said.
The law is so vague, that its enforcement is inconsistent and can change depending on where it is enforced with some prosecutors going after marijuana, medical or not, with vigor. Other counties are not so quick to prosecute those who appear to be following the law.
Block said West Michigan counties fall in the middle of the enforcement spectrum.
Assistant Prosecutor James Benison is Kent County’s medical marijuana specialist when it comes to law enforcement.
“The difficulty is people who treat the act as if it is decriminalization,” Benison said.
Benison read Block’s guide and finds it generally objective and explains the law as it currently stands.
Of course, things could look very different by the end of 2012, The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at a pair of cases related to medical marijuana and will likely issue opinions over the summer. Those cases include what constitutes a proper area for growing the marijuana and whether cases from before the law passed in November 2008 are able to use the medical marijuana defense.
But the true game changer could come with the November ballot if advocates are able to collect the 322,000 signatures needed to put a repeal of marijuana prohibition up for a vote.
In the meantime, Block says people need to take great care because, while Michigan has a law, the federal government does not recognize the state laws and continues to prosecute where possible, even in states like California, Colorado and Vermont.
Block outlines the 10 Commandments (plus one) of medical marijuana that includes advice to put plenty of cash aside for lawyer fees, pay taxes on any monies received and “when in doubt (about what'slegal) – don’t.”
So, what constitutes a plant? A seed is not a plant, but once it sprouts – even though completely unusable—it is considered a plant.
Where does someone get their marijuana? It must be provided by a caregiver who is growing for a single patient in one area. The safest route is for the marijuana card holder to grow it themselves in the allowed amounts.
Police cannot search a house or car simply because someone has a medical marijuana permit. There is no such thing as compliance officers, and police must gain a warrant, consent from the resident or owner or have other probable cause.
Block said there is a desperate need for the law to get some definition from the legislature or the State Supreme Court, but he believes it is a coin toss whether it will happen.
The guide is available for $15 at Block’s website.