Michigan Supreme Court Holds Marijuana Paraphernalia Evidence Inadmissible

On June 11, 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court held in a criminal case that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) precludes in a criminal prosecution the use by the prosecution of sticky notes as evidence made by a wife to inform her husband - who is a certified patient and caregiver under the MMMA - of the harvest dates of her husband's marijuana.  The wife - who is also the defendant in the case - made sticky notes to help her husband in the cultivation of his medicine, but she was charged with illegally growing marijuana.

In People v Mazur, Docket No. 149290, the Michigan Supreme Court addressed the issue of whether sticky notes made by a wife for her husband's benefit as an MMMA patient and caregiver are admissible as evidence against the wife in a criminal prosecution.

From the opinion's syllabus:

Cynthia A. Mazur was charged in the Oakland Circuit Court, Colleen A. O’Brien, J., with possession with intent to deliver less than 5 kilograms or fewer than 20 plants of marijuana, MCL 333.7401(2)(d)(iii), and with manufacturing less than 5 kilograms or fewer than 20 plants of marijuana, id. Defendant moved to dismiss the charges under the immunity provision of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA), MCL 333.26424. The court denied the motion. Defendant sought leave to appeal in the Court of Appeals, which granted the application. In an unpublished opinion per curiam, issued April 1, 2014 (Docket No. 317447), the Court of Appeals, METER, P.J., and JANSEN and WILDER, JJ., affirmed. Defendant sought leave to appeal in the Michigan Supreme Court. The Supreme Court ordered and heard oral argument on whether to grant defendant’s application for leave to appeal or take other action. 497 Mich 883 (2014).

In an opinion by Justice BERNSTEIN, joined by Justices KELLY, MCCORMACK, and VIVIANO, the Supreme Court held:

Because the conduct at issue in this case occurred before the enactment of 2012 PA 512 and 2012 PA 514, the Supreme Court considered the MMMA as originally enacted. A defendant claiming that he or she was solely in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana was not entitled to immunity under MCL 333.26424(i) when the medical use of marijuana was not in accordance with the MMMA. Nor was a defendant entitled to immunity under MCL333.26424(i) when the defendant’s conduct went beyond assisting with the use or administration of marijuana. However, the Court of Appeals erred in interpreting the phrase “marihuana paraphernalia” as used in MCL 333.26424(g). “Marihuana paraphernalia” as used in MCL 333.26424(g) included items that were both specifically designed or actually employed for the medical use of marijuana. “Medical use” was broadly defined in the MMMA to include cultivation. In this case, defendant provided her husband, who was both a qualifying patient and a registered caregiver under the MMMA, with sticky notes for the purpose of detailing the harvest dates of his plants. This activity constituted the provision of marijuana paraphernalia for the medical use of marijuana under MCL 333.26424(g) because the sticky notes were actually used in the cultivation of marijuana. Accordingly, the prosecution was prohibited from relying on the evidence of defendant’s provision of the sticky notes in bringing charges against defendant.

1. Under the MMMA, immunity was available to people who were neither registered qualifying patients nor primary caregivers under MCL 333.26424(i) and (g). A person could claim immunity under MCL 333.26424(i) either (1) for being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the MMMA, or (2) for assisting a registered qualifying patient with using or administering marijuana. In this case, the evidence showed that the marijuana operation was not in accordance with the MMMA and that defendant assisted her husband with the cultivation of marijuana, not the ingestion of marijuana. Therefore, defendant was not entitled to lay claim to immunity under either provision of MCL 333.26424(i).

2. Under MCL 333.26424(g), an individual could claim immunity for providing a registered qualifying patient or a registered primary caregiver with marijuana paraphernalia for purposes of a qualifying patient’s medical use of marijuana. In MCL 333.7451, the Public Health Code defines drug paraphernalia as any equipment, product, material, or combination of equipment, products, or materials, that is specifically designed for use in planting, propagating, cultivating, growing, harvesting, manufacturing, compounding, converting, producing, processing, preparing, testing, analyzing, packaging, repackaging, storing, containing, concealing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing into the human body a controlled substance. The Court of Appeals erred when it concluded that the MMMA and the Offenses and Penalties provisions of Article 7 of the Public Health Code, in which the definition of “drug paraphernalia” is found, were in pari materia. The MMMA’s purpose is to allow medical marijuana use for certain individuals under limited circumstances, whereas the purpose of the Offenses and Penalties provisions is to criminalize marijuana use and related activities. The aim of each statute is distinct; in fact, they are contrary to one another. And the Legislature specifically limited application of the statutory definition of “drug paraphernalia” to certain provisions of the Public Health Code. As commonly understood, “paraphernalia” means equipment, apparatus, or furnishings used in or necessary for a particular activity. A specific design need not be intended. In context, as used in § 4(g), the phrase “marihuana paraphernalia for purposes of a qualifying patient’s medical use of marihuana” meant that an item may or may not have been marijuana paraphernalia depending on the use to which it was put. Under the MMMA, “medical use” referred to activities beyond just administration or ingestion, including transportation, internal possession, and cultivation. In this case, defendant provided her husband, who was both a qualifying patient and a registered caregiver under the MMMA, with sticky notes for the purpose of detailing the harvest dates of his plants. This activity constituted the provision of marijuana paraphernalia for the medical use of marijuana under MCL 333.26424(g), because the sticky notes were actually used in the cultivation of marijuana. Accordingly, the prosecution was prohibited from relying on the evidence of defendant’s provision of the sticky notes in bringing charges against defendant. If that evidence was the only basis for the criminal charges, the charges had to be dismissed. But if there was other evidence supporting the charges, the prosecution could proceed on the basis of the remaining evidence.