Drawing the Line Between “Drying” and “Dried”: Michigan Court of Appeals Clarifies the MMMA
A recent opinion by the Michigan Court of Appeals has clarified standards for what constitutes “usable marijuana” under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act or MMMA. The opinion in People v. Manuel has been described by some as a landmark decision on medical marijuana litigation in the State of Michigan. If you or someone you know has been accused of violating the Michigan medical marijuana laws, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading drug crimes attorney in Cass County.
On May 14, 2014, Michigan State Police conducted a warranted search of the home of Iskandar Manuel. At the time of the search, Manuel was purchasing marijuana from another man. Upon further examination of Manuel’s home, police discovered a marijuana grow operation in his basement. Manuel was charged with the following offenses: delivering or manufacturing 20 or more, but not less than 200 marijuana plants; possessing marijuana with intent to deliver; maintaining a drug house; and possessing a firearm during the commission of a felony.
4 of the MMMA allows a defendant to “claim entitlement to immunity for any or all charged offenses” if the defendant sufficiently proves that he or she,” as stated in People v. Hartwick, “(1) was issued and possessed a valid registry identification card, (2) complied with the requisite volume limitations of § 4(a) and § 4(b), (3) stored any marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility, and (4) engaged in the medical use of marijuana.” As Manuel was in possession of a valid registry identification card, stored his marijuana plants in his basement behind a locked door, and was understood to be engaged in the medical use of marijuana, People v. Manuel turned on whether Manuel exceeded the MMMA’s volume limits, those which restrict a primary caregiver or qualifying patient to a certain number of marijuana plants and a specified amount of usable marijuana. As a qualifying patient and primary caregiver for five patients, the MMMA would allow Manuel to cultivate up to 72 marijuana plants and to possess up to 15 ounces (or approximately 425.25 grams) of usable marijuana. Additionally, as Manuel was in possession of only 71 marijuana plants, he was in compliance with the cultivation limit; the question remained, however, whether the same followed for MMMA volume limits.
In its definition of “usable” marijuana, the Court of Appeals referred to People v. Randall, an unpublished decision in which “dried” marijuana—marijuana considered to be in its complete or final state—is distinguished from “drying” marijuana—marijuana considered to be in an incomplete form. Thus, in its decision, the Court of Appeals defined “usable marijuana” as that which is “dried.” When the marijuana found in Manuel’s basement was first weighed, it measured 1,195 grams; however, when it was re-weighed, approximately a month and a half later, it measured 1,068 grams. Expert testimony offered by Manuel’s defense explained the disparity between the two weights—that of 127 grams—as caused by his marijuana being in “various states of drying” and therefore, not usable under the MMMA. The Court of Appeals accepted the explanation and dismissed all charges against Manuel.
The Court of Appeal’s decision in People v. Manuel has been cited as providing necessary clarity to the MMMA that ensures that medical marijuana patients and caregivers are not at risk to possible felony charges. As Michigan medical marijuana caselaw continues to evolve, it is important to understand those legal complexities surrounding this unique area of law. If you or someone you know has been charged with a violation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, contact the Peter J. Johnson Law Office, PLLC, a leading drug crimes attorney in Cass County, at 269.982.1100 or visit www.AttorneyPeterJohnson.com.