Since implementation of the 2008 voter initiative allowing for qualifying patients to possess and use marijuana as part of their treatment, there has been a flurry of legal activity surrounding this latest development in marijuana law.  While the law has created an exception for registered patients to possess and use marijuana, there exists a lot of public confusion regarding what is and is not allowed.  This article has highlighted some of the most pervasive myths that surround the act.

            Myth 1Marijuana is now legal in Michigan:  This is a myth because it is still illegal to possess, distribute and/or manufacture marijuana in Michigan.

             The voter initiative in 2008 led to the amendment Michigan’s marijuana law that creates an affirmative defense to a registered patient who is in possession of or uses marijuana.  An affirmative defense is different from legalization.  Legalization would involve decriminalization and/or regulation through the current marijuana laws in Michigan.  That did not happen.  Rather, the statute has created an exception to the law which allows licensed individuals to possess and use marijuana and other licensees to provide marijuana to patients.  The distinction is important because any other activity outside of the statutory affirmative defenses could constitute a legal possession, manufacturing or distribution of marijuana.  MCL 333.26421 et seq. will give you the actual language of the statute.  See http://www.legislature.mi.gov/(S(sxn0v2uvdat3mqnlscar4jv4))/mileg.aspx?page=getObject&objectName=mcl-Initiated-Law-1-of-2008 for more information.

            Myth 2.           My marijuana caregiver card and/or patient card allows me to use marijuana anywhere I want:  This is a myth because the law does not prescribe any establishment where marijuana use would be legal.

            Generally speaking, the privacy of one’s own home is probably the place where a patient would least likely to be charged with any offense.  Compassion clubs and other public facilities were not provided for in the statute and it is at the discretion of local law enforcement whether they would be a legal place to use marijuana.  A patient or caregiver may not be successfully prosecuted in that scenario, but there is a practical cost of being arrested, posting bond, hiring an attorney, etc. that is best avoided.

            Myth 3.           It is legal to sell marijuana from shops and stores:  This is a myth because the statute does not provide for any form of distribution of marijuana except as prescribed by the law.

            Michigan law allows patients to grow up to twelve plants each or to have a caregiver grow the plants for the patient and provide them with the marijuana.  The law also does not provide for any form of payment except for the payment of expenses the caregiver.  However, certain jurisdictions have exercised their discretion in allowing these dispensaries to open and distribute marijuana to licensees.  In other jurisdictions, the dispensaries have been opened to only be shut down immediately by local law enforcement.  Caregivers may have up to 5 patients along with themselves and possess up to 12 plants per patient.

            What is not clear is whether the caregiver may possess 2.5 ounces per patient at any given time and whether a patient or caregiver may go to another patient or caregiver for marijuana if they do not have any for themselves or their patients.

             These are just a few of the myths that surround Michigan’s new law.  Because of the vague nature of the law and lack of guidance it has provided to so many, it is bound to be rewritten, interpreted by the courts and always subject to local interpretation. 

            For questions about the myths of medical marijuana, legal questions about the commercial aspects of the law or other insights, please contact the law offices of Timothy A. Dinan at (313) 821-5904 or see the website at www.timdinan.com.