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BlogsPublications | August 19, 2016
2 minute read

COA on the MMMA: If it has roots, it’s a plant

In People v. Ventura, No. 327289, the Michigan Court of Appeals interpreted for the first time what a “plant” means for purposes of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA). Defendant was charged with possession of marijuana. The MMMA allowed Defendant to possess 24 marijuana plants, but police found 21 mature marijuana plants and 22 “clone plants” in his possession.  Clone plants are a piece of a mature plant that people use to grow a new plan.  Defendant argued that the clone plants were only leaves of a plant and had not developed into independent plans themselves. Whether these 22 clone plants constituted plants determined whether he violated the 24-plant limit under the MMMA; the Michigan Court of Appeals held that the clone plants are, in fact, plants and upheld his conviction.

Neither the MMMA nor Michigan courts interpreting the MMMA have defined the word “plant.” The Court, then, looked to the dictionary definition of “plant” and to Sixth Circuit and the Idaho Court of Appeals, which both have interpreted “plant” in cases involving marijuana plants. Both courts determined that cuttings or “clone plants” become independent plants when they have readily observable root systems or root hairs.  Based on these sources, the Michigan Court of Appeals held that a “plant” exists for purposes of the MMMA when it has readily apparent root formation, such as root hairs.  This definition aligns with the ordinary meaning of a plant: as the Idaho Court noted, this test allows courts to apply common sense and use the naked eye to determine whether it has roots.  If it has roots, then it is a plant under the MMMA—no matter the size or maturity of the plant.  As officers here testified that Defendant’s clone plants had root hairs visible to the naked eye, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Defendant’s conviction of possessing marijuana.