Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Ruled Illegal by Court of Appeals
A 3-judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals has reversed an Isabella County Circuit Judge that had denied the county prosecutor's request for an injunction that would close down the local Compassion Apothecary; a medical marijuana dispensary. After this decision, consider the Apothecary closed.
The sole issue decided in the case was whether the MMA provides for the "sale" of medical marijuana. The Court of Appeals said, "no". That was a foregone conclusion under any plain reading of the provisions of the Act.
Anyone reading the MMA will note that the referendum writers, in their wisdom, provided two ways for "patients" to obtain their, er, "medication". Either you "grow your own", or you get your pot from a certified care provider who can only service 5 patients at a time with an overall limit to the total number of marijuana plants on the premises. The MMA is silent, however, on dispensaries; nor does it provide for transfer by sale.
The Compassion Apothecary [BTW, even the name of this dispensary was illegal so they changed it to "CA"] is a membership-based collective designed to distribute a continuous supply of marijuana to certified patients. The Apothecary operates a locker system whereby patients and care providers pay monthly fees for both membership in the collective and use of a locker.
The CA is a "no grow" and "no smoke" facility. Patients can inspect [see, smell and touch] a wide variety of marijuana strains prior to purchase. The pot price is set by the care provider; the CA takes a 20% "service fee" on the transaction.
Sounds like an organic "win-win" right? Wrong. The collective ran afoul of the law, according to the Court of Appeals, as the MMA does not allow patient-to-patient sales or transfers. Also, the Court held that the CA illegally "possessed" the marijuana under both the Public Health Code, and the MMA.
Accordingly, the Court of Appeals concluded that the CA could be shut down on the basis it was a "public nuisance" as contended by the Isabella County Prosecutor. Case closed; the CA dispensary, and all others like it, are out of business by operation of this published, thus binding, decision of the Court of Appeals.
While the CA huddles with its attorneys to decide whether to take further appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette applauded the decision as a much needed patch on a law that "has more holes than Swiss Cheese." AG Schuette told the Detroit News that the MMA has been "hijacked" by folks looking to profit from pot sales and by unscrupulous doctors issuing bogus patient certifications.
This blog has long-held the view that the MMA is a poor law. The Act does not square with the reality that many qualified "patients", perhaps even a majority, once endorsed by Michigan's DCH, smoke pot recreationally, not medicinally.
Some "On-the-Take" physicians conduct cursory reviews of an applicants' medical records in their assessment of a claimed chronic or debilitating medical condition, as required under the Act. Schuette is looking to criminalize bogus physician certifications. We're certainly behind that legislative initiative; good luck Bill.
Whenever a law is based on a fiction, as this one is, our jurisprudence suffers. As AG Schuette correctly points out, too many folks are equating legalization of marijuana with the medicinal use of marijuana. In this decision, the Court of Appeals removes this stubborn disconnect.