Recently, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that judges can no longer prohibit defendants from using medical marijuana as part of their probation. The defendant was charged with assault and battery following a road rage incident. He pleaded guilty, and the judge sentenced him to one year of probation. A condition of probation was that the defendant was not to use marijuana, including medical marijuana.
In response, the defendant filed a motion arguing that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) entitles individuals to certain protections, such as protection from arrest, prosecution, or penalty. However, the prosecution contended that the court maintains the ability to restrict a defendant’s medication. Although the defendant’s issue is moot because his probation ended, the Michigan court found that the issue is one of public significance and required judicial review.
Under the MMMA, medical marijuana use is permitted so long as it is carried out under the Act’s provisions. The issue at hand is whether the revocation of probation upon using medical marijuana is a penalty, as defined by the statute. The court reviewed several cases where the court had found that MMMA supersedes ordinances and statutes that conflict with the MMMA. To further support their position, the court turned to other states that maintain similar medical marijuana laws. In those states, courts have held that it is illegal to prohibit the use of medical marijuana as a condition of probation.
The court ultimately concluded that the provision of the Michigan Probation Act that allows courts to prohibit a defendant’s medical marijuana use conflicts with the MMMA. Further, the court reviewed whether the probation revocation was a “penalty” under the statute. Under the law, Michigan recognizes probation as a privilege, of which a trial court has broad discretion to authorize. In this case, because probation is a privilege, the revocation of probation is a penalty. Therefore, because the defendant properly maintained a medical marijuana card, the court erred in prohibiting the use of medical marijuana as a probation condition. The court declined to address the defendant’s constitutional violation claims, reasoning that their resolution negates the need to discuss the constitutional claims. This groundbreaking decision is of critical importance to Michigan criminal defendants. However, it is essential to note that the court did not extend the ruling to those who use marijuana recreationally. Some Judges may try to interpret the law differently to prohibit marijuana use. For example, some have held that since prescribing medication is regulated under federal law and federal law still holds marijuana as illegal. Therefore, doctors cannot legally prescribe marijuana so it is not legal medication. These type of arguments will have to be tested on appeal themselves. As a result, you should still investigate the position of your judge before beginning to use marijuana even with a proper card.
Have You Been Accused of a Michigan Criminal Offense?
If you or someone you know faces a Michigan probation violation, contact Attorney Paul J. Tafelski at Michigan Defense Law. Attorney Tafelski maintains an active criminal defense practice dedicated to representing those accused of Michigan crimes. He provides clients with respect, compassion, and zealous representation during all stages of their criminal proceedings. Attorney Tafelski handles Michigan criminal charges stemming from OWI/DUIs, criminal sexual conduct, airport crimes, expungements, gun charges, juvenile offenses, homicide, probation, theft, and white-collar crimes. Attorney Tafelski keeps apprised of the ever-evolving legal landscape that may impact Michigan criminal defendants. To learn more, contact his office at 248-451-2200 to schedule a free initial consultation.