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BlogsPublications | November 2, 2021
2 minute read

COA Opinion: medical marijuana user must have easy access to registry identification card to avoid arrest

In People v. Nicholson , the Michigan Court of Appeals held that person who had been issued a registry card under the Michigan Medical Marijuana ACT (MMMA) but did not have easy access to it was not immune from arrest, but may be immune from prosecution or penalty.

In this case, the defendant was questioned for marijuana possession while he was a passenger in his friend's car. He informed the officer that he was a medical marijuana patient, and that although he had not yet received his official registry identification card, he had the paperwork (which was the equivalent of the card) back at his home. Regardless, the officer arrested and charged the defendant for possession of marijuana. The defendant moved to dismiss the charges because he was able to show the district court proof of his medical marijuana approval, which was backdated to before the arrest. The district court held that the MMMA required actual physical possession of a registry card at the time of the marijuana use to avoid arrest and prosecution, and, because the defendant was not in physical possession of his registry card at the time of the arrest, the court denied the defendant's motion.

The Court of Appeals disagreed, holding that the registry card possession requirement means that the registry card must be 'reasonably accessible at the location of that person's marijuana possession and use,' and that the Act further requires that the question of possession for establishing whether one is immune from arrest is a separate question from possession for establishing whether one is immune from prosecution or penalty. Accordingly, the Court held that while the defendant was not immune for arrest for possession of medical marijuana because his registry card was not reasonably accessible, he was immune from prosecution because he had his registry card. The Court conditioned this immunity on there being no evidence that the defendant was using the marijuana for non-medical purposes. It remanded the case for consideration of the medical use question.