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Is obtaining a Medical Marijuana card after a traffic stop a good defense?

Defendant appeals as of right his conviction, following a jury trial, of possession with intent to deliver marijuana. Defendant first contends that the trial court erred in excluding evidence relating to his debilitating medical condition, as well as the fact that after the date of his arrest, he received a medical marijuana card.

Defendant was travelling northbound on I- 75, when he was pulled over by a Michigan State Trooper because of the tinted windows on his vehicle. Trooper reported smelling fresh marijuana as soon as he got out of his own vehicle and approached defendant's vehicle. When questioned by Trooper about the smell of marijuana, defendant informed Trooper that there were pieces of edible marijuana in the trunk of the vehicle. When Trooper opened the vehicle's trunk, the strong smell of marijuana was amplified and he found edible marijuana in the form of brownies, cookies and Rice Krispie treats. A more thorough search of defendant's vehicle yielded one ounce of marijuana packaged in two bags found in the pocket of a pair of jeans in a gym bag in the trunk. Trooper also located additional marijuana packaged in separate bags in a larger Ziploc bag, as well as another Ziploc bag containing separate packages of marijuana. Trooper also found a brown paper bag secured with duct containing marijuana leaves. Trooper did not find anything in the vehicle consistent with the personal consumption of marijuana, such as marijuana pipes, bowls or rolling papers.

Detective was called by the prosecution as an expert to testify regarding street level narcotics distribution and trafficking. He testified that defendant possessed approximately 2 ounces, or 28 grams of marijuana, not including the edible marijuana. He estimated the total value of the marijuana in defendant's possession to be approximately $800 to $900 and in his opinion, the marijuana was possessed with the intention to deliver it to others. Detective based his opinion on the form, quality, value and quantity of the marijuana, as well as the way it was packaged. Defendant testified that he possessed the marijuana for personal use, and that he had no intention to deliver it or sell it to others.

Defendant filed a motion seeking to introduce evidence of a "debilitating medical condition" and the fact that he subsequently received a medical marijuana card following the date of this offense. The trial court denied this motion, and following trial, the jury convicted defendant of possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

The trial court found that Defendant is not entitled to assert a Michigan Medical Marijuana Act defense based on a medical diagnosis or registration occurring after the traffic stop. The trial court declined to admit the requested evidence, concluding that the fact that defendant held a medical marijuana card after the date of the instant offense was not relevant to whether he had the intent to deliver the marijuana seized from his vehicle on November 8, 2014. If defendant presents evidence that he now has a marijuana registration or was prescribed medical marijuana after the fact, the jury will likely be misled into concluding that defendant is entitled to assert a medical marijuana defense.

With the rise of medical marijuana has come a rise in arrests for possession and use of marijuana for those who are not registered patients or caregivers. In Michigan, possession of marijuana is a misdemeanor and marijuana use is a misdemeanor. A marijuana possession or use conviction will also result in a suspension of your driver's license, even if you were not driving at the time. Different cities and townships in Michigan may prosecute similar ordinances with different potential punishments. This is why it is important to hire a skilled and experienced criminal defense attorney.

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