Michigan Appellate Digest
People v Nicholson
View Docket Sheet
Released: June 26, 2012
Panel: Whitbeck, Sawyer, HOEKSTRA
297 Mich App 191 (2012)
Opinion - Authored - Published View Opinion
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Registry Identification Card
Under the Medical Marihuana Act, a qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card is not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner if he possesses an amount of marijuana which does not exceed 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana.
Criminal Procedure - Dismissal - Review - Standard
A trial courtís decision on a motion to dismiss is reviewed for an abuse of discretion. A trial court has abused its discretion only when its decision falls outside the principled range of outcomes.
Statutes - Construction - Review - Standard
A trial courtís interpretation of a statute is reviewed de novo.
Statutes - Medical Marijuana Act - Initiative
The MMA was enacted as a result of an initiative adopted by the voters in the November 2008 election.
Elections - Initiative - Construction - Plain Meaning
The words of an initiative law are given their ordinary and customary meaning as would have been understood by the voters. A court presumes that the meaning as plainly expressed in the statute is what was intended.
Elections - Initiative - Construction - Surplusage
In construing an initiative law, a court must avoid a construction which would render any part of a statute surplusage or nugatory.
Elections - Initiative - Construction - Context
In construing an initiative law, a court must consider both the plain meaning of the critical words or phrases as well as their placement and purpose in the statutory scheme.
Crimes - Controlled Substances - Marijuana
It is illegal for a person to possess, use, manufacture, create, or deliver marijuana under the Public Health Code.
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Effect - Criminal Prohibition
The MMA permits the medical use of marijuana to the extent that it is carried out in accordance with the provisions of the act. The MMA sets forth very limited circumstances under which those involved with the use of marijuana may avoid criminal liability; it did not repeal any drug laws.
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Registry Identification Card - Effect
Under the MMA, a qualifying patient who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card is not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the act, if the qualifying patient possesses an amount of marijuana that does not exceed 2.5 ounces of usable marihuana, and, if the qualifying patient has not specified that a primary caregiver will be allowed under state law to cultivate marijuana for the qualifying patient, twelve marijuana plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. Any incidental amount of seeds, stalks, and unusable roots is also allowed under state law and may not be included in this amount.
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Registry Identification Card - Elements
A defendant is immune from arrest, prosecution, or penalty under the MMA if he (1) is a qualifying patient; (2) who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card; and (3) possesses less than 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. If a defendant satisfies these requirements, he is entitled to immunity for the medical use of marijuana.
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Medical Use - Effect - Arrest/Prosecution/Penalty
A person can fail to qualify for immunity from arrest under the MMA based on medical use of marijuana but still be entitled to immunity from prosecution or penalty. In a dispute whether the defendant possessed a registry identification card, a court must inquire whether he possessed the card at the time of arrest, prosecution, or penalty separately. In this case, the defendant was a passenger in a vehicle when police found him in possession of one ounce of marijuana. The defendant informed the police that he was a medical user of marijuana and had applied for a registry identification card, but that the paperwork was in his own vehicle at his place of residence. The police arrested the defendant for possession of marijuana, and he was so charged. The defendant moved to dismiss the charge as precluded by the MMA, but the district court refused to dismiss, and the defendant appealed. On appeal, both parties argued regarding the need for the defendant to have had the registry identification card -- or, in the defendantís case, its equivalent -- in his immediate possession at the time of the arrest. However, whether the defendant should have had the card in his possession at the time of his arrest was a separate issue from whether he had the card in possession so as to preclude prosecution.
Statutes - Construction - Or
Words and Phrases - Or
The word ďorĒ is disjunctive and indicates a choice between alternatives.
Criminal Defenses - Medical Marijuana - Registry Identification Card - Possession - Standard
The MMA requires a defendant to presently possess his registry identification card to qualify for immunity from arrest. A person possesses a registry identification card only when the registry identification card is reasonably accessible at the location of that personís marijuana possession and use. In this case, the defendantís paperwork showing that he had been issued the equivalent of a registry identification card at the time the police officer found him to be in possession of marijuana was not reasonably accessible at the location where he was asked to produce it. Consequently, the defendant was not a person who possessed a registry identification card and he was not entitled to immunity from arrest. However, the defendant produced his registry identification card in district court, and, upon showing that he was a medical user at the time of his arrest, he would therefore be immune from prosecution. Remand for further proceedings was necessary.