People in Michigan who use marijuana for medical purposes now have the right to use their health issues to defend themselves in court — even if they don’t have a medical marijuana card — thanks to a Michigan Supreme Court ruling.
Until this point, defending yourself against a marijuana-related offense by saying you use the drug to treat an ailment had not been allowed. But the high court (no pun intended) ruled that a 2008 law permits the use of medical marijuana as an affirmative defense.
“This ruling will allow us to present a case and go to trial,” one lawyer with several clients involved in marijuana-related cases tell Detroit News. “It’s a game-changer. 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. … Police will continue to arrest first and ask questions later, but prosecutors are going to have to rethink what kind of cases they want to pursue.”
The ACLU of Michigan hailed the court’s decision, saying that, “A patient who uses marijuana to treat their medical conditions with the approval by their doctor should not be punished for mere technical errors regarding the number of plants or how they were secured.”
The court ruled that someone arrested in Michigan on a marijuana-related offense can attempt to use their use of medical marijuana as defense if they provide a physician’s statement certifying the defendant is a patient who has a qualifying medical condition to use marijuana. That statement must also have been written at some point between 2008 and the date of the alleged crime.
Writes the court in its opinion:
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 court reiterated that the MMMA does not legalize marijuana outright, but that it’s “protections are limited to individuals suffering from serious or debilitating medical conditions or symptoms.”