Michigan medical marijuana patients can’t smoke in parked cars at public places, court rules

November 25, 2015:

LANSING, MI — Registered medical marijuana patients cannot smoke the drug in their own car while parked outside a private business that is open to the general public, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled Wednesday.

An appeals court panel, in a 2-1 decision, concluded that Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law does not provide protections for patients who use the drug under those circumstances.

The case involved Michigan resident Robert Carlton, a registered medical marijuana patient who was charged after smoking in his car while parked in a lot outside the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mt. Pleasant.

Carlton’s attorney had argued he should be immune from prosecution because his car was not a place open to the public, an argument judges at the district and circuit court level agreed with.

But Court of Appeals judges Michael Kelly and Christopher Murray disagreed, concluding Carlton was ultimately in a public place, which means immunity provisions in the medical marijuana law do not apply.

“The lot remains a public place and the fact that a person in a vehicle occupies a place that can be characterized as private in some limited sense does not alter the fact that the person is at the same time located in a public place,” the judges wrote in the majority opinion.

“And, as with the bathroom stall, whether the members of the general public are able to see the person smoking medical marijuana does not alter the public character of the place.”

COA Judge Douglas Shapiro disagreed with the majority in a published dissent. He noted that Michigan’s medical marijuana law specifically prohibits smoking the drug on any form of public transportation, suggesting vehicles could be seen as private places in some circumstances.

“For this reason, I think the majority is too quick to ignore the common-sense privacy component of a personal vehicle,” Shapiro wrote.

“The majority looks only at whether the vehicle itself is in a place defined as public. But the statutory language leaves open the possibility that in some circumstances a private vehicle can constitute a ‘private place’ even though it is located in an area to which the public has access.”

The ruling is the latest in a list of narrow court interpretations of Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law, which created a system of patients and caregivers who can grow a limited number of plants.

The Michigan Legislature is currently considering plans to create a more regulated medical marijuana system with licensed dispensaries, growers and other related businesses.

By Jonathan Oosting | joosting@mlive.com

Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him on Facebook or follow him on Twitter.

Original post: http://tinyurl.com/oqvsudd

Rendered template: single.php