Marijuana Brownies Get An Evidentiary Hearing In Oakland County
Does the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act presume that a certified patient can only consume marijuana by smoking herb, or can pot brownies do the trick? That was the question posed by a case from the Oakland County Circuit Court that went to the Michigan Court of Appeals.
Now, on last week's remand back to the Oakland County trial court, an evidentiary hearing will be conducted in the People v Carruthers case to determine whether the accused was using a "reasonable" amount of marijuana by baking the pot brownies.
Earl Carruthers was charged with illegally manufacturing marijuana when pot brownies and several ounces of "loose" pot were found in his vehicle; he possessed a medical marijuana card and a caregiver certificate at the time of his arrest. Oakland County Circuit Judge Michael Warren precluded him from submitting evidence to the jury about his status as a card-carrying medical marijuana patient and care provider. Judge Warren also ruled that the entire weight of the pot brownie mixture [some 55 ounces] could be taken into account relative to the manufacturing charge.
Even though the circuit court allowed Carruthers to appeal the evidentiary rulings prior to his trial, the Defendant elected to plunge into the trial without the ability to present an affirmative defense as to his medical marijuana use; he was jury-convicted. In appealing this conviction, the broad immunity provision and the narrower affirmative defense section of the MMA were once again interpreted by the Michigan Court of Appeals; this time in the "usable marijuana" context.
Complicating this issue is the fact that the MMA itself defines "usable marijuana" two different ways: first, the Act references the broad definition set forth in the public health code, then proceeds to promulgate its own, much narrower definition of marijuana:
"Usable marihuana" means the dried leaves and flowers of the marihuana plant and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalks, or roots of the plant.
Whether Carruthers could avail himself of the MMA's immunity provisions [case dismissed; no jury trial] hinged on the weight of the edible. Judge Warren ruled the whole pot brownie had to be weighed; Defendant asserted that only the net weight of the THC, the active ingredient in marijuana, could be taken into account. Although the prosecutor's expert stated that THC was present in the brownies, it was impossible to conclude how much.
This ruling could make it difficult for a marijuana patient or care provider to produce pot brownies in conformity with the weight limitations of the MMA. Critics within the defense bar expressed concerns that the Court of Appeals' decision limits ingestion via the lungs, i.e. with smoke. Patients that have lung conditions and cannot smoke are thus precluded from legally ingesting baked goods laced with marijuana.
The case will be heading to the Michigan Supreme Court for certain. Our High Court will once again be called upon to "fill-in-the-blanks" of the MMA.
We here at the Law Blogger must say that the ingestion of pot brownies by a legitimate card-carrying patient sure seems to be consistent with the spirit, if not the letter, of the Medical Marijuana Act. Stay tuned, as we will be following this one...