Michigan Medical Marijuana Patients Continue Facing Threat of Criminal Prosecution
October 27, 2016
by The Law Office of Steven L. Schwartz
Although Michigan moved to legalize medical marijuana in 2008 and currently allows medical dispensaries to operate in the state, marijuana arrests by Michigan law enforcement authorities continue to increase. According to a report discussing the phenomenon, many legally authorized medical marijuana patients have been targeted for arrest and prosecution for obtaining, possessing, or using the substance in ways that remain illegal under state law.
Patients who face arrest are often vindicated in court after charges are dismissed or they are found not guilty, but much of the difficulty and stigma related to a marijuana arrest occurs whether or not a conviction is ultimately obtained. To avoid arrest and prosecution for what is essentially a medical issue, marijuana patients in Michigan should educate themselves about the laws that apply to their possession and use of the substance, and they should retain skilled legal counsel in the event of an arrest.
Medical Marijuana: Is It Legal or Not? Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, which intended to permit patients who obtain a prescription to purchase a certain amount of marijuana from a licensed dispensary without violating state law. The passage of the 2008 law was a step in the right direction for the patients who are helped by marijuana’s therapeutic value, but they may continue to face a threat of prosecution in certain circumstances.
Under state law, patients must have a valid prescription to possess marijuana, and the product must be purchased from a Michigan-licensed dispensary. Patients who are from other states, who purchase from private sellers, or who grow their own product may be violating the law without knowing it. It is important for marijuana patients to keep a verification of their prescription and a receipt to prove the product was purchased legally.
Michigan marijuana patients who legally purchase the product from a licensed dispensary may still be prosecuted if they operate a vehicle while in direct possession or under the influence of the product. Medical marijuana should always be kept outside the driver’s reach in a secure container, preferably in the trunk of a vehicle, to avoid a possible arrest for driving under the influence. Furthermore, patients’ ability to consume marijuana is restricted in many public places, and all possession, purchase, or use of marijuana remains illegal under federal law. The current administration has not made a priority out of arresting marijuana users who legally use the product in compliance with state law, although a new administration could change these policies and begin arresting patients en masse in the future.
What to Do if You Are Arrested? Anyone arrested for marijuana possession or use in Michigan has the right to speak with an attorney before cooperating with law enforcement. If you are arrested for possession, use, or DUI regarding marijuana that was purchased from a valid dispensary, it is prudent to show the police your prescription and dispensary receipt, although the police may not always honor the laws on the books. Anyone arrested on a drug charge should consult with an experienced criminal defense attorney to discuss their case and possible defenses to the charge, whether they believe they legally possessed a substance or not.
Contacting a Michigan Criminal Defense Attorney for Marijuana Charges If you or someone close to you has been arrested or charged with a drug crime, a qualified attorney may be able to help get the charges resolved as simply as possible. The Detroit criminal defense attorneys at the Law Offices of Steven L. Schwartz are experienced in representing Michigan residents, including marijuana patients, against drug charges. Our Oakland County criminal defense team seeks the results that our clients desire, and we will not hesitate to force the prosecution to prove their case at trial if they will not cooperate in negotiations beforehand. We have offices in Bloomfield Hills and Franklin, and we assist clients accused of misdemeanors and felonies throughout the Detroit metro area. Contact us by using the online form or by calling (248) 930-5019 to schedule a consultation today.
- Flint Investigator Resigns after Drunk Driving Arrest, Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published September 30, 2016.
- Michigan City Police and the DEA Announce Federal Drug Distribution Charges Against Several Men, Michigan Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog, published October 14, 2016.