MI Medical Marijuana- Voters Intent Must Be Followed

MI Medical Marijuana- Voters Intent Must Be Followed

It is manifestly clear that the Michigan voters’ intention and purpose in passing the initiative was to change state law in Michigan, thereby, “protecting from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marihuana.

The MMMA should be broadly interpreted to effectuate that remedial purpose of protecting “the health and welfare of its citizens,by not penalizing “the medical use and cultivation of marijuana. A very narrow, limited, or restrictive interpretation is inconsistent with the purpose of the statute, and the statute’s specific recognition that federal law allows the use of marijuana “under very limited circumstance,” in the sentence used just prior to the stated purpose would indicate that had Michigan voters intended that the statute be applied in a very limited or restrictive manner, then the objective of the statue would have been stated to not penalize the medical use and cultivation of marijuana, under very limited circumstances. Moreover, a narrow and restrictive interpretation would not protect “from arrest the vast majority of seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marihuana; and when using the phrase “vast majority,” the statute is clearly referring to the 99 out of every 100 marijuana cases prosecuted under Michigan state law, rather than federal law. Therefore the statute should be interpreted to effectuate the purpose of protecting all those “seriously ill people who have a medical need to use marihuana” from arrest and prosecution, under state law.

So far the Michigan cases addressing the Medical Marijuana Act ("MMMA") have demonstrated a clear inclination to apply the protections afforded in the most limited and restrictive manner, by resorting to rules of statutory construction, grammatical structure, and dictionary definitions, rather than determining “the objective of the statute, the harm which it is designed to remedy, and applying a reasonable construction which best accomplishes the statute’s purpose. ” See People v Russo, 439 Mich 584 (1992). It is clear from the fact that none of the cases examining the MMMA have allowed the protections afforded under the act, based on the patients’ medical need to use marihuana, that the statute is not being interpreted to effectuate the intent of the voters.

While the courts are having difficulty with the interactions of §§ 4, 7, & 8, of the MMMA, when the Act is read as a whole and interpreted to effectuate the voters’ intent the interactions are clear. According to the MMMA, MCL 333.26427(a), “The medical use of marihuana is allowed under state law to the extent that it is carried out in accordance with the provisions of this act.” That statute does not state that the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the act is excused, justified, or exempt from prosecution. It states that it is allowed under state law, and interpreting these words as they would have been understood by the common voter, it is plain, certain, and unambiguous that such activities are lawful. This section dictates what protections are available to a defendant, under the MMMA.

Our Courts must avoid a construction that would render any part of a statute surplusage or nugatory, and “must consider both the plain meaning of the critical words or phrases as well as their placement and purpose in the statutory scheme.” People v Williams. Therefore, a more appropriate and reasonable construction is that the reference to MCL 333.26427, contained in 333.26428, is related to the actions and activities mentioned in MCL 333.26427(b) that are not permitted pursuant to the Act, even if a person is in compliance with MCL 333.26424(a & b). Such a construction would make natural sense, as one would not wish to provide an affirmative defense to activities, which it specifically refused to allow.

The definitions provide a clear distinction between the more general terms primary caregiver and qualifying patient, and the more restrictive terms registered primary caregiver and registered qualifying patient. This distinction clearly indicates that such distinction was intentional and when the general term is used the more restrictive language should not be engrafted on it. “The omission of a provision in one part of a statute that is included in another should be construed as intentional, and provisions not included by the Legislature should not be included by the courts.” Polkton Charter Twp v Pellegrom, 265 Mich App 88 (2005).

Further, although ignorance of the law is generally not an excuse in regard to federal prosecution for violating federal drug laws, such should not necessarily be the case in prosecuting a defendant for violating state drug laws, where the voters have passed an initiative making the medical use of marijuana lawful.

Finally, if the initiative in this state is construed as it would have been understood by a reasonable voter, then any construction to the contrary would be unconstitutional infringement of the People’s right to initiate legislation, making such construction invalid as an unconstitutional usurpation of the People’s rights.

Attorney Daniel D. Hajji is a criminal defense attorney in Oakland County Michigan.

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