When the trial court judge dismissed the charges against the owners of Ferndale’s medical marijuana dispensary, Clinical Relief, many breathed a sign of relief. But a Michigan Court of Appeals just reopened the prosecution of all 7 defendants in the case. Now it looks like Clinical Relief is going back to court.
The Court of Appeals had strong words for the Oakland County trial court, saying it had abused its discretion by dismissing the Clinical Relief cases. Specifically, the appeals court found 3 errors:
- The Defendants didn’t qualify for protection under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The law grants protection to patients with specific diseases or symptoms that get a medical benefit from marijuana, or people identified and licensed as their caregivers. The trial court dismissed the charges against Clinical Relief without finding the defendants fell into either of these categories.
- The MMMA was not unclear or ambiguous. The appeals court said there was no reason for the defendants to believe dispensaries were legal under the statute, even though the statute allowed caregivers to provide marijuana to patients and be compensated for their costs. Again, the court chided the trial court for not requiring the defendants to explain what the ambiguity was before granting their motion to dismiss.
- The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that dispensaries and patient-to-patient sales are illegal. The appeals court decided that the ruling should apply to Clinical Relief, even though the decision was made after this case had already begun. The appeals court said since the Public Health Code prevents marijuana use and sales, the opinion did not create any new illegal behavior. Since the only question was whether a defense was available, the case would apply retroactively.
For Clinical Relief, this means that the criminal charges will continue on. The individual defendants may be able to assert the MMMA defense, but it has to be based on their own qualification under the statute. Despite the confusion and unequal application of the MMMA across the state, this Court of Appeals opinion has closed the book on any argument that the statute is ambiguous.