Michigan Court of Appeals Rules That Judges Cannot Prevent Medical Marijuana Patients from Using Marijuana During Probation

Original Case Information

This case originally started as an assault & battery case charged against the defendant, Michael Thue. The apparent story is that Thue committed his crime in an act of road rage. Thue pled guilty to assault and battery and was sentenced to one year of probation by a Traverse City District Court judge. One of the conditions of Thue’s probation was that he does not use marijuana, including medical marijuana. Because of an accident in his youth, Thue has a rod inserted in his arm that causes him pain. To alleviate this pain, Thue became a registered patient under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) prior to his current assault & battery case. As a registered MMMA patient, Thue is entitled to certain protections from police, prosecutors, and courts. The protections that registered MMMA patients are entitled to relating to the possession and use of medical marijuana include:

• Protection from arrest,
• Protection from prosecution,
• Protection from penalty of any kind.

Thue filed a motion to the District Court judge, asking the judge to allow Thue to use medical marijuana consistent with the MMMA. Thue argued that the judge setting a condition in his probation against using medical marijuana subjects him to a penalty for violating that condition. A probation violation could result in the judge revoking Thue’s probation and sentencing him to jail. Thue argued that a penalty such as this is in violation of the guarantees of the MMMA. The District Court judge denied Thue’s motion, as did the Grand Traverse County Circuit Court judge that heard the motion on appeal. Thue then appealed the case to the Michigan Court of Appeals, who just ruled in favor of Thue in a major victory for medical marijuana patients across the state.

Michigan Court of Appeals Decision

Since this case took over a year to be heard and decided by the Michigan Court of Appeals, Thue’s probation actually ended during this case. In many cases, an appellate court will refuse to hear a case if the decision on the contested issue in the case would not make a difference as the case is over. The issue in the case would then be described as “moot.” In this case, even though a Court of Appeals decision would not affect Thue directly, the Court of Appeals recognized that this issue is one of great public interest and that a clear decision needed to be made for how the MMMA is to apply to probationers in Michigan. In a unanimous 3-0 decision, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that a probationary condition against the use of medical marijuana by a registered patient under the MMMA is a penalty and is in conflict with the MMMA. Because a probationary condition against the use of medical marijuana is a penalty, the MMMA supersedes the judge’s authority to enforce that condition. The Court of Appeals noted other cases that have also ended with the conclusion that the terms of the MMMA are preemptive and cannot be taken away by a new law or statute. One example is the Michigan “zero tolerance” law that states that drivers cannot drive with any amount of THC in their systems. In a previous case, the Michigan Supreme Court held that any part of the of the zero-tolerance law that conflicts with the MMMA does not apply to registered MMMA patients.

How This Decision Affects the MMMA

This decision by the Court of Appeals appears to be one that will likely stand, as the Michigan Supreme Court has ruled on similar issues in the past, giving the nod to the MMMA as being more powerful than any attempted statute or action meant to subvert the protections of the MMMA. Judges across the state of Michigan will no longer be able to require registered medical marijuana patients to stop using their medicine and cannot enforce a penalty such as the revocation of probation for using medical marijuana. If you are a medical marijuana patient, this decision is a huge victory as the protections under the MMMA are now reinforced by this decision and others before it. If you are currently on probation and are seeking to be able to use medical marijuana as a registered patient, then you will likely need to file a motion asking your sentencing judge to remove any conditions related to medical marijuana use. If you have questions about this, then it is important that you speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. Call us today at Grabel & Associates so we can help.

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At Grabel & Associates, we bring over 100 years of combined experience in defending people in drug cases across the state of Michigan. Call us today for a free consultation at 1-800-342-7896 or contact us online.

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