By Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News
Source: Detroit News
Michigan -- In a major ruling on Michigan's controversial medical marijuana act, the Michigan Supreme Court said Thursday the 2008 voter-approved law provides legal protection from prosecution, even for users who did not obtain state-issued medical marijuana cards.
In a 34-page ruling, the court said the law provides an affirmative defense to "individuals who are not registered cardholding patients to assert the affirmative defense" in any criminal prosecution involving marijuana.
"Because the MMMA (Michigan Medical Marijuana Act) was the result of a voter initiative, our goal is to ascertain and give effect to the intent of the electorate, rather than the Legislature, as reflected in the language of the law itself. We must give the words of the MMMA their ordinary and plain meaning as would have been understood by the electorate," the opinion said.
Michael Komorn, an attorney specializing in medical marijuana cases and the president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said the ruling from Michigan's high court now means that defendants in criminal cases will be allowed to present a defense to a jury that their use of marijuana was for medical purposes.
"Up to this point the Court of Appeals decisions have eliminated and eradicated the right of the people to present a defense to a jury," Komorn said.
"This ruling will allow us to present a case and go to trial. It's a game changer. Police will continue to arrest first and ask questions later but prosecutors are going to have to rethink with what kind of cases they want to pursue."
Matthew Abel represented defendants in one of the two cases ruled on by the court in its decision. Abel said he does not know if the ruling will reduce the number of arrests and prosecutions of medical marijuana users but it will directly impact all court cases in play now.
"It will make it more difficult for prosecutors to prevent medical marijuana patients from using the medial marijuana defense," said Abel, who has 25 such cases alone and estimates there are hundreds across the state of Michigan.
In a pair of cases out of Oakland and Shiawassee counties, the court ruled unanimously that lower court interpretations of the marijuana statute had been too restrictive.
In the Oakland County case, the court said the law allows a person arrested on a marijuana-related offense to assert a medical marijuana defense, as long the use of marijuana was recommended by a doctor after the law was enacted in 2008 and before the arrest.
Advocates are hailing the ruling as a move toward more accurate interpretations of the law and less hassle for patients.
"People have been denied their rights," said Jamie Lowell, co-founder of Ypsilanti's 3rd Coast Compassion Center, an education and faith access center for medical marijuana patients. "People can finally do what was originally intended by the voters and by the drafters of the act."
Detroit News Staff Writer Mark Hicks contributed.
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Author: Jennifer Chambers, The Detroit News
Published: May 31, 2012
Copyright: 2012 The Detroit News
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