Recently, a federal class action lawsuit filed with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, Detroit Division against Michigan State Police crime labs claimed that Fourth Amendment rights and due process are violated by the current marijuana reporting policy.
According to news reports, the lawsuit would directly impact anyone caught with marijuana in the state, along with about 180,000 medical marijuana patients who are registered. Attorneys who filed the suit said that the MSP crime labs, in conjunction with the Oakland County Sheriff’s Dept. and Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan misreport marijuana as synthetic, and do so intentionally. The lawsuit also alleges that the marijuana policy which was written in 2013 was designed in an attempt to “strip medical marijuana patients of their rights and immunities, charge or threaten to charge citizens with greater crimes than they might have committed, obtain plea deals and increase proceeds from drug forfeiture.”
This basically stems from a lab policy instructing MSP crime lab techs to treat all TCH (the active ingredient in marijuana) as synthetic when not 100% certain it originates from a plant. While it may not sound like much, it is according to Michigan law. Essentially, individuals who are accused of manufacturing or selling synthetic THC or cannabis will face criminal charges that are far more serious than those accused of producing or selling cannabis grown as a plant.
Criminal defense attorneys who brought the federal lawsuit against MSP crime labs said that because science is not actually used in determining whether THC is synthetic or plant derived, it is not only unfair to defendants but equal to falsifying results.
Some of the individuals involved in the lawsuit are Brandon Shoebe, a licensed medical marijuana caregiver, Maxwell Lorincz, a medical marijuana patient, and Jason Poe, also a licensed medical marijuana patient among others. All are defendants who feel they have been unfairly charged for allegedly possessing marijuana that was synthetic; all defendants also claim the marijuana was plant derived. This group is seeking class-action status in the lawsuit, which accuses the MSP crime lab of intentionally misrepresenting all marijuana oils and edibles as having “unknown origins.”
Ultimately, the lawsuit claims that the marijuana reporting policy makes it possible for prosecutors to bring charges against defendants that are far more severe, often felonies instead of what would have been a misdemeanor charge had the cannabis been classified as derived from a plant, rather than synthetic.
The question is, have prosecutors put pressure on MSP crime labs to alter how THC is reported in an effort to circumvent the state’s medical marijuana law? If so, many defendants may find themselves facing two-year felony charges rather than a misdemeanor pot charge.
As criminal defense lawyers who have represented countless defendants facing charges involving marijuana, we understand the importance of this lawsuit and how it could impact medical marijuana patients and others. While medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, the federal government still views it as illegal. Should prosecutors be able to bypass our state’s laws because they are staunchly against the use of marijuana for medical purposes, or in any form?