Michigan Judges Can’t Stop Medical Marijuana Use By Probationers, Court Rules

Michigan Judges Can’t Stop Medical Marijuana Use By Probationers, Court Rules

Medical marijuana card
File photo: Ann Arbor man shows his Michigan medical marijuana cards in his home on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Jack Zellweger | The Ann Arbor News)Jack Zellweger

By Gus Burns | fburns@mlive.com

Registered patients previously barred from using medical marijuana while on probation may now light up, the state Court of Appeals ruled Thursday.

“This opinion says the law is the law,” said Komorm, who represented the appellant in the case, “and we’re going to make the ruling that the Medical Marijuana Act and the card associated with the patient protect them from … penalty of any kind.”

It’s taken 13 years, but Michigan courts are finally fully recognizing the rights instilled by the 2008 voter-passed Medical Marijuana Act, said Farmington Hills-based defense attorney.

In Komorn’s opinion, although the ruling doesn’t address the issue, the precedent should also apply to parolees or defendants on bond with release conditions that prohibit legal medical marijuana use.

The unanimous ruling issued in writing Thursday by Court of Appeals judges Mark J. Kavanaugh, Deborah A. Servitto and Thomas C. Cameron determined Medical marijuana law “supersedes” contradicting laws empowering judges to limit a wide array legal activity, such as alcohol consumption.

And that’s because of “specific language” in the ballot initiative voters passed prohibits any penalty for compliant use of medical marijuana, Komorn said. Despite that, Komorn said judges frequently, especially in Grand Traverse County where the case arose, impose marijuana probation restrictions on registered pattients.

While arguing the medical marijuana probation condition in a lower court, Komorn said an opposing attorney said allowing medical marijuana use by his client was “akin to letting people drink who are on probation for drunk driving.”

“Really,” Komorn said was his incredulous response. “Since when has there been a medical alcohol law?”

The appellate case stems from a June 2019 road-rage incident involving 39-year-old Michael Thue, who eventually pleaded guilty to assault and battery for his role the incident.

His sentence includes a year of probation with a condition that he not use medical marijuana, even though he was a state-registered patient allowed to do so.

Thue fought the bond condition and initially lost. Komorn took the case to the Court of Appeals.

Michael E. Thue THC CBD tattoos
Michael E. Thue of Center for Compassion in Traverse City, shows off tattoos displaying THC and CBD molecules, which are one in the same.

Komorn said he didn’t represent Thue during his criminal case and wouldn’t disclose further details about the initial crime. Thue, who has the molecular structure of cannabis THC and CBD tattooed on his forearms, owns a Traverse City company that produces hemp-derived CBD products for therapeutic use.

“Bottom line is that the court speaks through its opinions and judges are expected to keep up to date on developments like this case,” said Michigan courts spokesman John Nevin, when asked how this will impact existing or future probation conditions. “However, in addition, the Michigan Judicial Institute (the education arm of state Court Administration Office) sends judges regular updates on topics like this. And the State Bar of Michigan provides regular briefings for attorneys.”

Nevin declined to comment on how the opinion might impact bond or parole conditions of a similar nature.

Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg said there would need to be changes made by the Legislature in order for the appellate ruling to apply to parolees or those free on bond.

“There are no plans to appeal,” Moeggenberg told MLive by email Friday evening. “While the result is problematic, the reasoning of the court is sound.

“For those who are currently on probation and have a current and valid Medical marijuana card, probation cannot be revoked if they are using in compliance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.”

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