Michigan Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Its First Medical Marijuana Case

Affiliate: ACLU of Michigan
June 23, 2011 12:00 am

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ACLU asks court to dismiss felony drug charges against registered patient

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DETROIT – In an order announced today, the Michigan Supreme Court agreed to review the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan’s appeal in the case of a registered medical marijuana patient who is facing felony drug charges despite complying with state law. This will be the first time the Michigan Supreme Court weighs in on the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

“We look forward to the opportunity to explain to the Michigan Supreme Court that Larry is a law-abiding citizen who followed all the rules,” said Dan Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan staff attorney. “The criminal prosecution of Larry King is a gross injustice. The overwhelming majority of Michigan voters approved the Medical Marijuana Act to protect people like Larry from criminal punishment.”

King, a 55-year-old Owosso resident who suffers from severe and chronic back pain, was issued a medical marijuana card in 2009 by the Michigan Department of Community Health after being examined and approved by a doctor. As permitted under the law, King grew 12 marijuana plants for his own medical use. The Shiawassee County Prosecutor, however, charged him with manufacturing marijuana, a felony, because some of his plants were being grown outside.

King’s plants were in a sturdy dog kennel behind lock and key, but the prosecutor claimed that he was violating the law because the six-foot-high, ten-foot by ten-foot chain link dog kennel did not have a roof. The Shiawassee County Circuit Court dismissed all charges, ruling that King was a legal medical marijuana patient whose plants were kept in an “enclosed, locked facility” as required by the law.

The Court of Appeals, however, in a 2-1 decision by Judge Henry Saad, ordered that King’s felony drug charges be reinstated. The court ruled that the locked dog kennel was not secure enough and that King would not be permitted to raise a medical defense to the serious felony drug charges he was facing.

Judge E. Thomas Fitzgerald dissented, writing: “This is a case involving an individual who went through the necessary procedure to become a qualifying patient who has been issued a valid registry identification card. The MMMA’s susceptibility to multiple interpretations should not result in the use of the act as a sword, rather than a shield, under the circumstances of this case.”

The ACLU is asking the Michigan Supreme Court to reverse the appeals court decision.

In 2008, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved on a statewide ballot with 63 percent of the vote. The law specifically states that registered patients and their caregivers “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner” for growing, possessing, or using medical marijuana. It also requires courts to dismiss drug charges against anyone who was using marijuana to treat their medical condition based on the advice of their doctor.

King is being represented by Korobkin, ACLU of Michigan Legal Director Michael J. Steinberg, and ACLU of Michigan cooperating attorney John Minock of Cramer & Minock, PLC.

To read the order, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/KingAppeal.pdf

To read the ACLU’s brief, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/KingBrief.pdf

To read the Court of Appeals’ majority opinion, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/KingAppealsMajority.pdf

To read Judge Fitzgerald’s dissent, go to: http://www.aclumich.org/sites/default/files/KingAppealsDissent.pdf

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