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.
Click on Magazine to see December 2011 Issue!!!!
Attorney General: Police can seize medical marijuana
Here's a solution, DON'T TAKE OUR DAMN MEDICINE. GROW YOUR OWN. -UA
A provision of the Michigan medical marijuana law that prohibits police from seizing pot possessed by licensed medical marijuana patients is invalid because it conflicts with federal law, Attorney General Bill Schuette said in an opinion released today, one in which he warns officers who return marijuana to patients could be prosecuted as dope dealers.
“It is ‘impossible’ for state law enforcement officers to comply with their state law duty not to forfeit medical marijuana, and their federal law duty not to distribute or aid in the distribution of marijuana,” according to the opinion.
Schuette was responding to a request from state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, who asked whether police were required to return marijuana to medical marijuana patients who had been arrested or detained upon their release.
An opinion from the attorney general is generally considered binding legal opinion, especially on state agencies like the Michigan State Police, unless and until it is rejected by a judge.
It is the latest in a series of moves by the attorney general to narrow the scope and application of the law, approved by Michigan voters in 2008. Schuette, then a recently-retired state appeals court judge, led the campaign in opposition to the initiative.
Marijuana ballot question explored at Kalamazoo forum
The people have spoken. AGAIN. -UA
He also considers himself a responsible voter, and that led him to attend a meeting Monday hosted by supporters of a proposal to amend the Kalamazoo’s city charter to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana the “lowest priority” for police.
He’d heard what opponents of the proposal had to say about it, and he entered the meeting undecided, wanting to know what the other side had to say. He left a supporter.
“We’ve got shrinking resources everywhere. I’m no hippie, but we don’t need to be focused on this,” said Ruddy, a consultant and small-business owner. “Resources are being wasted on (investigating and prosecuting) this kind of small-scale stuff. That angers me.”
About 20 people attended the meeting at the Kalamazoo Public Library, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Coalition for Pragmatic Cannabis Laws, where attendees shared the opinion that there is large-scale support for the proposed charter amendment among the city’s registered voters.
The proposal’s specific language — to go before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot — reads: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?” If it passes, Kalamazoo would be the first city in the state to have such charter language.
“People don’t want their law enforcement money spent on this, plain and simple,” said Chuck Ream, an Ann Arbor resident and member of the Safer Michigan Coalition, a group that seeks to tax and regulate marijuana the same way as alcohol. “They want their tax dollars going to investigate violent crime.”
Law enforcement officials have said they don’t actively investigate small amounts of marijuana and that even if the charter amendment is passed, it would not change the power Department of Public Safety officers would still have to enforce state and federal laws that ban marijuana.
John Targowski, a Kalamazoo attorney who litigates marijuana- related cases, pointed out that the proposed charter amendment does not create any legal right to use marijuana in the city. Rather, it seeks to direct law enforcement resources away from investigating small amounts of marijuana and toward the arrest and prosecution of criminals who truly compromise the public’s safety. Possessors and users of small amounts of marijuana are not those people, he said.
“Small-scale arrests are the low-hanging fruit of the drug war,” Targowski said.
Those arrested for small amounts of marijuana end up clogging the criminal justice system, from arrest to prosecution to potential jail time, costing taxpayers, he said.
“This is a resource allocation issue,” Targowski said.
Similar lowest-priority proposals have amended the governing documents of Seattle, Denver, Missoula, Mont., and other cities, local supporters said.
They said passing a Kalamazoo charter amendment could spark a movement across the state to similarly amend other city charters.
“Kalamazoo will be symbolic and might gear up other initiatives throughout the state,” Ream said. “Voters here could really start something.”
Ream said four other Michigan cities are being looked at for similar lowest-priority amendments in 2012, including Escanaba and Flint.
“You will be representing the whole Midwest,” he said to attendees.
When a state Court of Appeals decision came down Aug. 23 prohibiting “patient-to-patient sales” of medical marijuana, a growing network of medical marijuana dispensaries were suddenly thrown into a state of limbo.
The court determined that defendants Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor, owners of Mt. Pleasant-based Compassionate Apothecary, were not acting within the boundaries of the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act by allowing sales of medical marijuana and retaining up to 20 percent in profit.
The appellate court opinion overturned an Isabella County Circuit Court decision and determined the defendants in fact were in violation of the Public Health Code and could be shut down as a public nuisance.
According to their attorney, however, there is no provision in the state’s Public Health Code making it illegal to sell marijuana – medical or otherwise.
“There is no offense in the PHC that mentions the words ‘sales,’” said Matthew Newburg, from Newburg Law, PLLC in Lansing.
Newburg said he and attorney Mary Chartier, from another Lansing law firm, are planning an appeal of the appellate court decision to be reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court.
Of course, federal drug laws stipulate that marijuana remains illegal and is listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic, but Newburg said there is no state law addressing sales. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, also, does not address sales or dispensaries.
“Whether money exchanged hands as part of the dispensary’s normal operations is irrelevant,” he said.
Although the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and the state’s Public Health Code directly conflict with one another, Newburg said the MMMA provides an exception, more or less, for licensed patients and caregivers. He said there are provisions in the Act that safeguard patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution.
Newburg said they are gathering information for their appeal and to determine the best course of action.
In Ypsilanti, the 3rd Coast Compassion Center closed their doors for one day after the Court of Appeals decision was announced. Since then, the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state has been operating normally.
But Jamie Lowell, director for 3rd Coast, said they are still trying to determine what the court ruling means for them. The dispensary operates as a non-profit organization that accepts private donations in order to pay bills and salaries
Lowell echoed Newburg’s comments saying that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act didn’t need to address the selling of medical marijuana because it was never illegal according to state law.
“What the MMMA did carve out was an exception for the growing and manufacturing for licensed patients and caregivers,” said Lowell.
Patients, Advocates, and Friends –
Bad news. We've had another rollback for safe access - this time in Michigan. A terrible ruling just came out of a Michigan Appellate Court, stating that dispensaries are not legal under Michigan's medical cannabis law. This ruling is a scary reflection of a trend across the nation. Efforts to scale back medical cannabis laws are happening all over the place, from California to Arizona to Rhode Island.
We need to stop this backlash against medical cannabis and push safe access forward. But we need your help to make that happen. We need to raise a lot of money to be able to rise to the occasion and effectively respond to these rollbacks across the country. Every single dollar makes a difference, and when you start a recurring donation, we know we can count on that money each month, regardless of how big or small the amount is.
The ruling in Michigan says exchange of medicine for money is not legal under Michigan's law, even among patients. This means that patients must grow their own cannabis in order to legally obtain the medicine that gives them relief. Sick and dying patients often do not have the energy or resources to grow their own medicine, forcing them to use the black market and risk arrest.
ASA is dedicated to fighting back against this, and other, bad rulings. We know safe access is integral to an effective medical cannabis law. We know the fight doesn't stop after a law's been passed. We know patients need a legal distribution system to be fully protected. We'll work tirelessly to change the situation in Michigan and across the nation, but we rely on individual donations to do this.
Your generosity keeps ASA alive and growing. Every little bit helps. Can you donate $35, $50, $100, or even just $5 to help ASA push against these rollbacks?
Thank you for all you have done and will do in this fight. Until there is safe access, we are Americans for Safe Access.
I bet he takes enough kickbacks for everyone......-UA
If an elected official misses the point, is his statement still right? State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, was right when he said that he didn’t “think it’s appropriate to offer any enticement to vote for or against elected officials of any kind.” Unfortunately, the subject he was talking about had nothing to do with enticing voters.
In Lansing, a medical marijuana clinic used an online advertisement to offer free medical marijuana to legal patients who came in and submitted a voter registration form. On the same web page, the clinic supported the election of various Lansing City Council members. Let’s clarify that: There were no promises of free medical marijuana in exchange for votes for or against any candidates, just for submitting a voter registration form, but the clinic itself did endorse candidates.
Jones, outraged by this display of businesses enabling people to vote, contacted the state attorney general to determine the legality of the clinic’s offer.
There’s more than a passing thought that, if this wasn’t medical marijuana, there would be no issue here. State officials would feel no need to get involved, and a business would not be lampooned for attempting to help eligible voters vote. But because medical marijuana is a touchy subject that can easily be misconstrued, it’s an issue.
But it’s good for local businesses to support voter registration. Businesses investing in communities, not just customers, is the hope of local governments everywhere. Another business might be lauded for making this effort. To follow the senator’s example, there would be no issue if a bar offered free drinks to customers who submitted their voter registration forms there.
Second, it’s the clinic’s choice if it wants to support the election of officials who further its cause. Other businesses do that all the time: It’s called hiring lobbyists. In this case, clinic patients can submit a voter registration form and proclaim that there is no way they will ever vote for the candidates the clinic supports and still be entitled to free medical marijuana.
The decision by the clinic to support candidates and it’s decision to offer free, legal medical marijuana to individuals who submit a voter registration form are separate decisions — decisions that perhaps are motivated by the same interests, but separate decisions nonetheless.
It’s easy to ignore those distinctions and accuse the clinic of impropriety, but technically the clinic is in the right. The issues are separated, even if the line between them is thin. And if this isn’t right, then a candidate for an elected position who promises lower taxes isn’t in the right either, because he’s promising voters a reward if he gets elected.
If we were to prosecute every case of promised (or even delivered) enticements for voters, there’d be an investigation into every candidate in every election. If we were to prosecute each and every business that supported candidates, there’d be an investigation into any moderately large business.
So the senator is correct; it’s absolutely inappropriate for a business (or a candidate, or an individual) to offer any kind of enticements in exchange for votes. Fortunately, that never happened in the above scenario.
There is a line between support and explicit coercion, and it was not crossed this time.