Improper Transport Medical Marijuana in Michigan
Michigan Medical Marijuana Lawyer Bruce Alan Block
Transporting Medical Marijuana in Michigan.
December 20, 2016: The Michigan Court of Appeals issued a 2-1 Opinion striking down the Improper Transport of Medical Marijuana Statute. The court opinion states that the improper transport statute is superseded by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Courts around the state were wrestling with this statute, some upheld it, many did not. Medical marijuana cardholders cannot be prosecuted under MCL 750.474. The Court found that the improper transport statute placed impermissible added requirements on the transportation of medical marijuana beyond those imposed by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. As such, the additional limitations (that the usable marijuana be in a case in the trunk or its functional equivalent) were impermissible, and a compliant medical marijuana patient cannot be prosecuted under the improper transport statute. The case can be read at our marijuana cases page, the case name is People v Latz. This case is probably going to be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court and it will have the final say, but for now, it is the law in Michigan.
This is a HUGE victory for medical marihuana patients around the state. Remember though, you cannot smoke marijuana in an automobile, as the appeals court has also ruled that the inside of a private car is a "public place" under Section 7. Thus, smoking marijuana in a car automatically voids the Section 4 Immunity provided to you by your MMMA identification card and you will be treated as though you never had a card in the first place. Also, you cannot raise a Section 8 medical use defense if you have violated Section 7.
Who can be charged for Improper Transport?
Who then can be prosecuted under the improper transportation law if medical patients and their caregivers can no longer be prosecuted? The court of appeals did not overturn the law on constitutional grounds, so it is still on the books. The only person that can be prosecuted for this crime post People v Latz are non-MMMA patients and caregivers who possess usable marijuana in their cars. However, there are two more common marijuana crimes that are typically used: Use of Marijuana (a 90-day misdemeanor) and Possession of Marijuana (a 1-year misdemeanor). If given a choice, the police will probably choose to charge non-MMMA individuals for use or possession of marijuana as these charges carry more severe penalties, including a 6-month drivers license suspension.
Improper Transport of Medical Marijuana.
The criminal offense of Improperly Transporting Medical Marijuana was signed into law by the governor on December 27, 2012. This law created a new criminal offense of improperly transporting medical marijuana inside a motor vehicle or self-propelled vehicle, such as a car, truck, tractor, motorcycle, snowmobile, moped, four wheeler, etcetera. To qualify as a vehicle, it must have: (a) an motor, and (b) be designed for land travel. The new criminal misdemeanor charge does not apply to marijuana plants or marijuana material that is not considered "usable" (see discussion below).
The law does not apply to boats, planes, or other forms of self-propelled vehicles that are not designed for land travel such as: skateboards, Razors, Razor sticks, or bicycles powered by human locomotion. It also does not apply to someone who is walking, as they are not inside of a "motor vehicle" or inside a "self-propelled vehicle designed for land travel." After the appeals court ruling in People v Latz, the law only applies to non-medical marijuana patients/caregivers. However, those who transport- possess marijuana in a car who are not MMMA patients or caregivers presumably will be prosecuted under the traditional criminal marijuana laws (Use and Possession of Marijuana); unless of course you are in a pot-friendly city such as Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor.
This law was effective immediately, without discussion or a grace period. Interestingly, it passed both houses of state government with super-majorities, but did not amend the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. As we expressed in a news article in The Grand Rapids Press, we think this law was misguided and unnecessary. The article can be read here.
The criminal medical marijuana transport law regulates how non-MMMA patients and caregivers can transport medical marihuana inside of a motorized vehicle. This definition is very broad and would include anything that uses a motor and has wheels. Michigan Codified Law (MCL) lists the requirements and the penalty for non-compliance:
The Medical Marijuana Transport and Possession Law.
MCL 750.474 Transportation or possession of usable marihuana; violation as misdemeanor; penalty.
(1) A person shall not transport or possess usable marihuana as defined in section 26423 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.26423, in or upon a motor vehicle or any self-propelled vehicle designed for land travel unless the usable marihuana is 1 or more of the following:
(a) Enclosed in a case that is carried in the trunk of the vehicle.
(b) Enclosed in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle, if the vehicle in which the person is traveling does not have a trunk.
(2) A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.
Law is similar to Gun Transport Laws.
Those in Michigan (and elsewhere) who own and transport firearms will recognize many similarities. All usable medical marijuana (and we suggest you include paraphernalia) should be put inside of a container and placed in the trunk of your car or vehicle. If your vehicle does not have a trunk, then you are required to put your medical marijuana inside of "a case" as far away from the driver’s seat as possible.
The law applies to drivers and passengers.
This law references "usable marihuana" which is defined by the MMMA as the dried, usable leaves, flowers, and extract of the marijuana plant. Read the actual language at this link MCL 333.26423(n). (Scroll down to Section 3 (n)).
The law does not define what is meant by "a case.” Common sense suggests it be some type of box or suitcase. If your vehicle does not have a trunk, then we suggest you obtain a lockbox or fire safe and lock up your marijuana.
So, what if you are driving a motorcycle or snowmobile? Then we suggest you leave your marijuana locked up at home. If you must transport it, then put your marijuana inside of a locking storage compartment on the motorbike and don’t speed… A recurring theme in the MMMA and court opinions, is that you should always keep medical marijuana locked up and out of public view. Remember, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act now requires that you physically possess your MMMA card and state-issued picture identification.
No More Plastic Baggies.
Transporting medical marijuana inside a plastic baggie in your trunk is probably not what is contemplated by this new criminal marijuana statute. We are not sure if a plastic baggie will classify as "a case." Unfortunately, the illegal drug trade has given plastic baggies a very bad reputation…
We suggest that to avoid problems, you go overboard to comply with the new law. Although it appears unfair and foolish, remember there are many such laws. Police have begun routinely issuing criminal misdemeanor tickets to those who fail to obey the medical marijuana transport law. When in doubt, take every precaution, as you can hopefully avoid the expense and hassle of fighting a criminal charge.
Transportation of Medical Marijuana Plants.
The definition of "usable marijuana" does not include live marijuana plants. So, how can you transport medical marijuana plants and stay protected under Section 4? The state legislature amended the definition of “an enclosed, locked facility” to include a motor vehicle if certain conditions are met:
(1) The vehicle is being used temporarily to transport living marihuana plants from 1 location to another with the intent to permanently retain those plants at the second location.
(2) An individual is not inside the vehicle unless he or she is either the registered qualifying patient to whom the living marihuana plants belong or the individual designated through the department registration process as the primary caregiver for the registered qualifying patient. MCL 333.26423(d)
The bed of a pickup is probably not the way to transport live marijuana plants. Also, the only persons allowed inside the vehicle is the registered patient or their registered primary caregiver. A violation of this requirement is serious, as this would not be a violation of the improper transport law, but instead, could strip you of Section 4 immunity and subject you to prosecution under the drug laws.
Does a Conviction of Improper Transport Suspend my Driver's License?
We spent time thoroughly checking this issue. The answer is No.
A conviction for the improper transportation of medical marijuana does NOT suspend your driver’s license, nor is it placed on your master driving history. A conviction however, is a criminal blot that is placed on your permanent criminal history – forever. It also may impact your ability to get financial aid or assistance. Don’t plead guilty – talk with a medical marijuana criminal defense lawyer first. Plead NOT GUILTY at the first court hearing (the arraignment) and come talk with us.
Let Us Interview for the Job.
We are experienced. We have handled a lot of marijuana cases, from district court to circuit court, and all the way to the Michigan Supreme Court (and back again). We have won Section 4 and Section 8 evidentiary hearings. We have helped a LOT of people.
If you need help in the Grand Rapids or greater West Michigan area, give us a chance to interview for the job.
Attorney Bruce Alan Block is a Grand Rapids, Michigan criminal defense lawyer who has experience and specialty in medical marijuana laws. He has successfully represented persons accused of possession of marijuana, manufacture, delivery, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, improper transport, maintaining a drug house, and similar drug offenses. If you are accused of a marijuana crime or any crime, put his years of experience to work for you. Call (616) 676-8770.
Bruce Alan Block, PLC
Attorney and Counselor at Law
1155 East Paris Ave SE, Suite 300, Grand Rapids, MI 49546
Phone: (616) 676-8770
Serving Clients throughout West Michigan, in Grand Rapids, Ada, East Grand Rapids, Kentwood, Cascade, Wyoming, Byron Center, Lowell, Caledonia, Rockford, Holland, Grand Haven, Grandville, Kent, Barry, Ottawa, Muskegon and Ionia County. We represent college students from Calvin College, Aquinas, Grand Valley State University, Cornerstone University, Grand Rapids Community College, Michigan State University, and Western Michigan University.
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• Disclaimer: It is our hope that everyone will strictly adhere to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act's requirements. Please understand that the purpose of this webpage is strictly informational; nothing on this website or this webpage are intended to suggest that you violate any state or federal law. You are advised to seek your own personalized legal advice.