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Your MI medical marijuana may not protect you from charges

Since voters passed the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, thousands of people have gotten arrested and incarcerated for marijuana cultivation and distribution. Even those who believe they are protected by the Act could end up victims to a no-knock narcotics raid and felony charges.

Although the law passed with substantial voter support and many voters favor total legalization, state officials have blocked attempts to implement safe access points (like dispensaries) and limited what kinds of marijuana products can get made and sold.

Most people sign up for the medical marijuana program to avoid prosecution. Sadly, far too many people who grow, use or provide marijuana will end up on the wrong side of the law. Possession of larger amounts and marijuana grow operations could result in serious felony charges, even for people with qualifying medical conditions. Although these people may be trying to treat an illness, they could end up with criminal records and even in jail as a result.

Law enforcement and prosecutors target growers, caregivers

Under state law, a single licensed grower, called a caregiver, can provide medical marijuana for as many as five people. If the caregiver is also a registered patient, he or she can grow marijuana for personal use. However, even with five patients and a medical certification, a grower is still limited to at most 72 plants at any given point.

For those who work with the severely ill, demand may far exceed what they are able to grow themselves. People who have serious conditions, like cancer, multiple sclerosis or even epilepsy may depend on marijuana for treatment or symptom management. These caregivers may find themselves in legal trouble if law enforcement shows up when there are too many plants in their gardens.

Extracts and medicated foods are legally questionable

Although most medical professionals who endorse marijuana for conditions acknowledge that smoking marijuana is the least healthy way to consume it, patients have few options. While marijuana concentrates and medicated foods can provide a safer way to consume marijuana, the Michigan state courts have ruled that these items are typically not protected under the state law.

For many caregivers, that leaves them with a choice of providing less-than-optimal care for patients or breaking the law to help people stave off serious diseases. These caregivers and growers may believe that law enforcement and state courts will understand why they manufacture and provide concentrates or medicated foods, but they are wrong about that.

Precedent in the state indicates that many who get caught with marijuana concentrates or infused foods will face prosecution. Even if they are otherwise in compliance with the law, they could end up criminals in jail for helping people.

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