Michigan Court of Appeals rules that judges can’t prohibit medical cannabis use among probationers

Michigan Court of Appeals rules that judges can't prohibit medical cannabis use among probationers

Bethan Rose Jenkins, Cannabis News Writer/Editorial

Registered medical cannabis patients in Michigan who were previously prohibited from using the plant while on probation have been informed that they can freely light up. This is based on a state Court of Appeals ruling, which took place on Thursday, February 11.

Advocates celebrated the breakthrough moment, which indicates that Michigan courts are finally acknowledging the rights that were imprinted when the 2008 Medical Marijuana Act was approved by voters.

Farmington Hills defense attorney Michael Komorn believes that, in spite of the ruling, the rights of registered medical cannabis patients in Michigan are still not being dealt with properly. 

Komorn suggested that the precedent be reconsidered to also ease restrictions among parolees or defendants who are on bond with release conditions foreboding legal medical cannabis consumption.

“This opinion says the law is the law and we’re going to make the ruling that the Medical Marijuana Act and the card associated with the patient protect them from penalty of any kind,” said the attorney, who provided representation for the defendant.

According to Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg, “there are no plans to appeal.” He told reporters at MLive that the legislature must make some notable changes for the appellate ruling to be relevant for individuals who have been released on bond or parole.

While the result is problematic, the reasoning of the court is sound. For those who are currently on probation and have a current and valid medical [cannabis] card, probation cannot be revoked if they are using in compliance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.”

Michigan medical cannabis law “supersedes” contradicting laws, says attorney 

The united ruling stipulated that judges can’t prohibit medical cannabis use among probationers. It was confirmed by Court of Appeals judges Mark J. Kavanaugh, Deborah A. Servitto and Thomas C. Cameron. 

Collectively, they ruled that Michigan’s cannabis law “supersedes” contradicting laws that grant judges the power to restrict legal activities, including alcohol consumption. Why? Because, Komorn says, “specific language” featured in the ballot initiative does not penalize compliant medical cannabis consumers. 

Notwithstanding the language contained in the initiative, Komorn noted that judges in Michigan continue to restrict registered patients from using medical cannabis while on probation. The attorney became increasingly frustrated when a clashing attorney claimed that allowing his client to use the plant in its medicinal form was “akin to letting people drink who are on probation for drunk driving.”

“Really… Since when has there been a medical alcohol law?” responded Komorn, who is also the president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association (MMMA).

June 2019 road-rage incident spurred on Michigan’s medical cannabis court ruling 

This appellate case has emerged following a June 2019 road-rage case. Based on details of the case, a 39-year-old man named Michael Thue was, upon admitting that he was guilty, charged with assault and battery.

Thue’s sentence demanded that he refrain from consuming medical cannabis despite the fact he was a state-registered patient and undergo a year of probation. Prior to the ruling, Thue unsuccessfully contested against the bond condition.

Although he didn’t provide representation for Thue, Komorn proceeded in taking the case to the Court of Appeals. The defendant’s forearms are inked with the molecular structure of cannabis THC and CBD a sign of his passion for the Traverse City company he owns, which produces therapeutic hemp-derived CBD products.

“Bottom line is that the court speaks through its opinions and judges are expected to keep up to date on developments like this case,” said Michigan courts spokesman John Nevin when questioned about how the ruling may influence similar cases in future. “However, in addition, the Michigan Judicial Institute (the education arm of the state Court Administration Office) sends judges regular updates on topics like this. And the State Bar of Michigan provides regular briefings for attorneys.”

Nevin did not respond to reporters when asked how the court’s choice may affect similar bond or parole conditions.