The Michigan Supreme Court sought Thursday to clarify a murky state law that allows medical marijuana under some circumstances, hearing the appeals of two people charged with drug crimes since voters approved the program in 2008.
The court heard oral arguments on two cases that could help determine how the drug should be kept by medical marijuana users and how and when patients must gain doctor and state approval to avoid prosecution for possible violations.
Michigan allows marijuana to be used to alleviate the symptoms of certain illnesses and conditions if someone gets approval from a doctor and gets a state-issued card. People can possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of ready-to-use marijuana and have up to 12 plants in a locked area. A registered caregiver also can grow the drug for them.
The law has sparked confusion, leading to a variety of legal opinions and differing enforcement in various parts of the state. Justice Stephen Markman noted that law enforcement officials may not be sure of their requirements under the law in some cases.
“Maybe this court will give some guidance on that,” Markman said.
In an Oakland County case, the issues include when someone using marijuana must have consulted a doctor and received a state-issued registration card to be legally protected under the medical marijuana law.
Alexander Kolanek says he smoked marijuana to deal with problems related to Lyme disease. He talked to a doctor about the medicinal benefits of pot before voters approved its legal use but didn’t go to the doctor for certification or apply for a state identification card until after an arrest for possessing marijuana in 2009.
Kolanek sought to get charges dismissed under provisions of the law that provide some defense for patients who don’t have state-issued registration cards but meet certain criteria for medical use of marijuana. The Michigan Court of Appeals declined to dismiss the drug possession charges, ruling that a person must obtain physician approval after the law was approved and before an arrest.
The second case deals with requirements for keeping marijuana in an “enclosed, locked facility” under the law.
Larry King of Shiawassee County had a valid medical marijuana card but was charged with drug manufacturing because his plants were kept in an outdoor, locked chain-link dog kennel. The appeals court majority held that did not satisfy the legal requirement that plants be kept in an “enclosed, locked facility.” Another question in King’s case is whether he could seek to build a defense under provisions of the law for people who don’t have state-issued registration cards but meet certain criteria for medical use of marijuana.