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Court: Medical marijuana users can be arrested if they don’t have paperwork

Posted on | June 27, 2012 | No Comments

The Detroit News
June 27, 2012
Court: Medical marijuana users can be arrested if they don’t have paperwork

* / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing— Medical marijuana users aren’t immune from arrest for possession of the drug without their state-issued paperwork or registry card, according to a new Michigan Court of Appeals ruling.

In a case involving an Ottawa County man who claimed a medical marijuana defense during a May 1, 2011, arrest in Grandville, a three-judge Court of Appeals panel said defendant James Nicholson could be immune from prosecution by producing his medical marijuana paperwork in court.

But state-issued medical marijuana registry cards and applications must be “reasonably accessible at the location” of an arrest for an individual to be immune from arrest, according to the ruling issued Wednesday.

The ruling is the latest legal development in a string of court decisions seeking to clarify ambiguities in the 2008 voter-initiated law.

In May, the Michigan Supreme Court made its first major ruling in the law, upholding the right to mount an affirmative defense to use marijuana for medicinal purposes in court even without a state card. In an April decision, a different Court of Appeals panel ruled medical marijuana cannot be used as a defense for operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated.

Last August, another Court of Appeals panel ruled medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under the law, effectively shutting down dozens of shops across the state.

During his arrest, Nicholson informed an officer of his right to posses marijuana for medicinal purposes after he “removed a small baggy of marijuana from his groin region,” according to court records.

In circuit court, Nicholson produced a state-issued medical marijuana registry card — dated March 18, 2011, before his arrest — as evidence he could possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis, which the appellate court found to be “sufficient” for a defense.

The appellate court remanded the case back to Ottawa County Circuit Court as it remains unclear whether the defendant was engaged in marijuana use permitted under the 2008 law.

“Defendant still has one more hurdle to overcome to be entitled to immunity from prosecution; he must also establish that at the time of his arrest he was engaged in the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the (Michigan Medical Marihuana Act),” the appeals judges wrote in the decision.

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