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The Law Blogger is a law-related blog that informs and discusses current matters of legal interest to readers of The Oakland Press and to consumers of legal services in the community. We hope readers will  find it entertaining but also informative. The Law Blogger does not, however, impart legal advice, as only attorneys are licensed to provide legal counsel.
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Sunday, January 6, 2013

Michigan Medical Marijuana Act Does Not Provide Immunity for Collectives

Just prior to the holidays, the Michigan Supreme Court deepened its medical marijuana jurisprudence by deciding another key case applying the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.  The case, People v Bylsma, arose out of Kent County and is distinctive because it is the first case under the Act that involves a collective grow operation.

Ryan Bylsma was a certified care provider under the MMMA.  He operated a medical marijuana collective with other pot growers.  He claimed that he assisted other farmers with their grow operations and that he only maintained 24 plants in the facility.

Bylsma was busted when a Grand Rapids city inspector observed suspicious wires coming from the structure of the collective.  The inspector forced his way into the structure [without a warrant], observed the extensive marijuana operation, and alerted the Kent County Sheriff.  Nearly 90 plants were seized from the structure.

The collective farmers had a locked facility, but they did not segregate their plants.  All three pot farmers were certified under the act.  Apparently, the structure was traced back to Bylsma from an owership perspective thus, he took the rap for possession of all the plants.

The Kent County Circuit Court trial judge did not buy into Bylsma's assertion that his pot possession within the collective was strictly limited to the 24 plants designated for his two patients.  Bylsma's motion to quash the information was denied and appealed to the Michigan Court of Appeals.

The intermediate appellate court affirmed the trial court, holding that since the strict plant limits and other provisions of the MMMA were not observed by Bylsma, then he could not avail himself of the immunity under section 4 of the Act, nor could he avail himself of the affirmative defenses under section 8 of the Act.

Maintaining consistency with their Kolanek opinion, the Michigan Supreme Court affirmed the intermediate appellate court in holding that, unless an accused complies with all the provisions of the MMMA, the section 4 immunity is not available.  The High Court reversed the Court of Appeals, however, by holding that the Act's section 8 affirmative defenses are available regardless of compliance with the Act.

The decision is significant to the extent that it resolves the issue of whether pot combine owners, partners or participants can combine space and share the protections of the MMMA; they cannot.  Further, this case again emphasizes the shortcomings of the Act with regard to any distribution-for-profit scheme; there are not enumerated in the Act, and the High Court laid the groundwork for striking down any such schemes.

We here at the Law Blogger see the medical marijuana jurisprudence establishing very limited defenses for true medical marijuana pot growers and users.  Those who insist on utilizing the MMMA to turn a profit will continue to be disappointed, while legitimate medical users will be afforded the protections envisioned by the Legislature.

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January 8, 2013 at 4:17 AM 

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