According to cannabis attorneys, because of a Michigan Court of Appeals decision this month, medical marijuana cultivators and caregivers cannot process their plants without doing so illegally. They will be breaking the law. State law does not cover “wet marijuana,” a loose word for the time it takes pot to dry between cutting and consuming it. This is the decision made in the Court of Appeals on July 19.
Matthew Abel, a senior partner of Cannabis Counsel, LLC, explained, “Now, they have made it so you cannot even comply with the law. Obviously, it does not go immediately from being a plant to being dried cannabis. There has to be a drying, or curing, process. I think this court lacks some understanding.” The People vs. Vanessa Mansour appeals court case set a disturbing precedent.
The case stems from an incident where police raided Mansour’s home in Troy, where they found cannabis plants, buds in various stages of the curing process, and dried flowers too. Mansour was a legitimate medical marijuana patient. Her defense argued that the weed busy drying was not usable, and therefore it should qualify her for immunity under state law.
Technically, officials should not have even considered the “wet weed” when drawing up the charges against Mansour. Neil Rockind, one of Mansour’s defense attorneys, said that a Michigan Court of Appeals decision made earlier had already set the precedent for that argument. However, a trial court did not agree. The Michigan Court of Appeals upheld the decision of the trial court in its July 19 ruling.
In its decision, the Court of Appeals relied on a previous ruling it had made in the People vs. Carruthers case, which was long before state law changed. Rockind said, “To say that the legislature makes it legal to possess growing plants and to possess a limited amount of finished product, but that in between, everybody is just illegal, is the interpretation that the Court of Appeals just hoisted on everybody.”
According to Rockind, the Carruthers ruling is both outdated and therefore irrelevant. It contradicts state law and causes a conflict with the People vs. Manuel case, already decided previously by the same Court of Appeals. Because of the Manuel ruling, the Michigan Supreme Court already had to send a medical marijuana case back to the Court of Appeals.
“I do not think the legal system has, for the most part, embraced the medical marijuana initiative,” Rockind continued. “I think the legal system has been very slow, and in some ways defensive, of a view of marijuana as illegal.” For Abel, the ruling is very illogical and makes no sense whatsoever, and it makes it very difficult for attorneys to give clients any type of sound advice.
“Someone needs to give the judges a forensic exam to see if they are all there,” Abel stated emphatically. “What they have done is continue to make a mess of the law.” Rockind plans to fight the July 19 ruling by taking the case to the Michigan Supreme Court, “We fully intend to appeal. We are not going to back down from a fight and we are not going to back down from this fight.”
“On behalf of my client and our clients, for patients, caregivers and all of us, this fight has to be fought,” Rockind promised everybody in Michigan. Since voters approved a ballot measure back in 2008 to legalize marijuana for medical purposes, the state’s medical pot program has been nothing if not a very bumpy road for all involved in it.
In 2017, the Michigan legislature attempted to clarify the program, but the resulting regulatory and licensing system has been very slow to get off the ground. The state only issued its first medical marijuana licenses on July 12 this year; a full 10 years after voters tasked it with the job. The delay is borderline criminal, particularly for those patients in dire need of a working system.
A primary component in the new framework, which is a testing facility for marijuana, is still unlicensed and preventing the industry from launching fully under the new system. Despite state regulators dragging their feet over the medical weed program, voters in Michigan will soon be considering another ballot proposal on November 8 to legalize recreational marijuana in the state too.