More than four years after it passed, the Medical Marihuana Act (MMA) is still shrouded in smoke. Holly police and the Oakland County Sheriffs Office recently raided Well Greens of Holly, the last medical marijuana dispensary in Oakland County.
Although the MMA allows licensed cardholders to carry a limited amount of marijuana, dispensaries are currently ruled illegal.
In 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled dispensaries are illegal and not covered by the MMA. That case, which involved a dispensary in Mount Pleasant, was appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court and was heard this past October. And, despite being three months later, the Michigan Supreme Court has not released its official ruling.
Waiting on the court’s official ruling has put municipalities in an odd predicament. The Village of Holly currently has an ordinance allowing medical marijuana dispensaries. However, under the current court rulings, dispensaries remain illegal.
“Well Greens had actually come before the council and zoning and did all their work before the state decision,” said Jason Hughes, council president for the Village of Holly. “The owner had been advised that, at the current time, dispensaries were considered illegal. I feel it was unfortunate that he was provided that knowledge and was apparently operating anyway.”
The cities of Fenton and Linden currently have moratoriums for dispensaries and are awaiting the release of the official ruling from the higher courts. Trustees in Tyrone Township discussed drawing up a ‘living document’ at a Jan. 10 meeting.
While municipalities are hesitating to take action on dispensaries, most law-enforcement departments in the tri-county area said they are not arresting medical marijuana patients who have the proper identification and legal amount of marijuana.
“If you’re compliant, we take no action and the incident is not recorded,” said Interim Holly Police Chief Michael Story. Story added that marijuana is still deemed illegal by the Federal government and that Holly officers act accordingly. “This act has more holes in it than it should.”
Fenton Police Chief Rick Aro said Fenton officers only arrest medical marijuana patients if they have more than the legal amount of marijuana plants allowed. Of the marijuana the Fenton police department has encountered, Aro said most users have their medical marijuana card.
Those who are caught with an illegal amount of marijuana or do not have their card could be arrested and charged with a 93-day misdemeanor, as well as a $500 fine.
In Linden, city attorney Charles McKone has advised police officers to arrest anyone with marijuana, regardless if they have a card. “If we just believe every card we saw, we wouldn’t arrest anyone,” McKone told the Linden City Council at a 2011 meeting.
Judge Mark McCabe of Genesee County’s 67th District Court in Fenton said he has not dealt with a medical marijuana cardholder who was arrested but still acting within their legal rights.
“A medical marijuana card can be an absolute defense, if all the requirements are met,” McCabe said.
Judge Kelley Kostin of the 52-2 District Court in Clarkston, Oakland County, whose jurisdiction includes Holly, said patients not following the parameters set in the MMA could potentially be breaking other laws, including Federal ones.
“(Card holders) are only allowed two ounces of marijuana for personal use,” said Kostin. In a recent case involving marijuana, Kostin said, “This person was accused of having a grow room and multiple pounds of marijuana with intent to deliver. That was clearly, based upon evidence, and was probably cause to bind the matter over. The marijuana involved was clear more than what the person was entitled to have.”
Rights of a card holder, according to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act
To obtain or renew a medical marijuana card, a patient must pay $100 and have written approval from a physician. A card holder is allowed to posses 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. If a card holder does not have a specified primary caregiver, he or she is allowed to have 12 marijuana plants in an enclosed, lock facility. A qualified card holder shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege.