Dec 1 13 9:35 AM

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People v Hartwick: Increased Burden to Prove MMMA Defenses·In People v Hartwick, the Michigan Court of Appeals announced a new standard and interpretation for proving MMMA defenses. For more details on how this case changes the legal landscape, continue reading.Procedural BackgroundIn 2011, 77 marijuana plants were found inside Richard Hartwick’s (“Defendant”) home. Defendant alleged that he was a medical marijuana patient, his own caregiver, and a caregiver for other medical marijuana patients. Subsequently, he was charged with manufacturing marijuana and possessing with intent to deliver. Defendant argued that because he possessed registry identification cards for himself and five patients, as required by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (“MMMA”), he was entitled to (1) immunity from prosecution under section 4 of the MMMA, and, alternatively, (2) an affirmative defense under section 8 of the MMMA.The trial court determined that Defendant had no knowledge of his patients’ health backgrounds, could not name their certifying physicians, and further, was unable to identify the particular ailments that at least two of his patients suffered from. Lastly, Defendant was also unaware of how much marijuana any of his patients were supposed to use to treat their “debilitating conditions,” or the length of time his patients were supposed to receive medical marijuana.Subsequently, the trial court rejected Defendant’s arguments, and held that Defendant was not entitled to immunity under section 4, and similarly, that he had not presented requisite evidence to make an affirmative defense under section 8. Defendant appealed the trial court’s decision in 2012, which was denied. Defendant then appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, who remanded the case back to the Court of Appeals. For the reasons set forth below, the Court of Appeals reaffirmed the trial court’s original holding.Specifically, the Court of Appeals (“the court”) stressed that Defendant’s arguments (immunity under section 4 and an affirmative defense under section 8) fail to reason with the primary purpose and plain language of the MMMA, “which is to ensure that any marijuana production and use permitted by the statute is medical in nature, and used only for treating a patient’s debilitating medical condition.”Section 4 ImmunityHere, Defendant relies on part (b) of section 4, which grants immunity to a primary caregiver who: (1) grows marijuana for patients “to whom he or she is connected through the department’s registration process”; (2) has been “issued and possesses a registry identification card”; and (3) complies with certain volume and security requirements.” Relying on this language, Defendant alleged that he was “engaged in the medical use of marihuana,” and thus entitled to section 4 immunity.The court refuted this blanket assumption, reiterating the trial court’s earlier determination that Defendant possessed 77 plants total, not 71 as Defendant alleges, which is five more than permitted.Moreover, the court held that even if Defendant possessed 71 plants, he still wouldn’t qualify for section 4 immunity. Specifically, the court determined that Defendant’s interpretation of the MMMA overlooks its sole medical purpose, which is referenced in part (d) of section 4. A reference Defendant discounts entirely, according to the court.This reference states that the prosecution may rebut a presumption that a primary caregiver was “engaged in the medical use of marihuana” with “evidence that conduct related to marihuana was not for the purpose of alleviating the qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the debilitating medical condition.”The court held that this is the exact situation found in this case. Specifically, Defendant’s own testimony illustrated that his actions were not aligned with the medical purposes behind the MMMA. In particular, he failed to introduce evidence of his patients’ medical conditions, the amount of marijuana required and length of treatment, and the identity of patients’ physicians.In conclusion, the court held that Defendant’s section 4 arguments failed due to his own failure to comply with the underlying medical purpose of the MMMA.Section 8 Affirmative DefenseUnder section 8 an affirmative defense is presumed when three criteria are met. First, during the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship, a physician determines that after having completed a full assessment of a patient’s medical history and current condition, that a patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marijuana to treat or alleviate a patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition or symptoms of a patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition.Defendant relies primarily on this first element. Specifically, Defendant misstates further that his mere possession of a registry card is sufficient to satisfy the required bona fide physician-patient relationship and physician’s statement. The court refuted this allegation, and explained that mere possession of a registry card (even one verified by the state), does not demonstrate an ongoing relationship with a doctor as intended by the MMMA. The court further noted that this requirement is “in keeping with [the MMMA’s] medical purpose and protects the patients it is designed to serve.” Additionally, the court reasoned that while Defendant provided evidence of a bona fide physician-patient relationship between him and his doctor, he failed to present evidence of his patients’ relationships with certifying doctors.Under the second element required by section 8, a defendant is required to present evidence that the patient and the patient’s primary caregiver, if any, were collectively in possession of a quantity of marijuana that was not more than reasonably necessary to ensure the uninterrupted availability of marijuana for the purpose of treating or alleviating the patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition. The court explains that this element is made up of two parts: (1) possession and (2) knowledge of what amount of marijuana is “reasonably necessary” for the patient’s treatment.Here, Defendant fell back on his earlier section 4 argument concerning the number of plants he claimed to possess. Specifically he alleged that if a caregiver possesses less than the amount permitted in section 4, then a patient/caregiver possesses no more than a “reasonably necessary” amount of marijuana for medical treatment as required under section 8. However, the court held that this is a misstatement of the law, and that the amounts permitted under section 4 do not define what is “reasonably necessary” to establish a section 8 defense. The court stressed that section 4 and section 8 are separate sections, “intended to address different situations with different standards.” More so, Defendant was unaware of how much marijuana was required for each patient or his own pain. Thus, Defendant failed to satisfy this second element.Lastly, the third element of section 8 mandates that a defendant present evidence that the patient and the patient’s primary caregiver, if any, were engaged in the acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marijuana or paraphernalia relating to the use of marijuana to treat or alleviate the patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition.Regarding this element, Defendant again asserts that his possession of registry cards is sufficient to satisfy this element. Similarly, the court refutes this argument, reiterating that possession of a registry card does not indicate that any marijuana possessed or manufactured by an individual is actually being used to treat a medical condition.In conclusion, the court determined that Defendant did not present evidence demonstrating the elements of a section 8 defense, and thus, he is not entitled to have the case dismissed under that section, or to present that defense at trial.People v Hartwick (Majority) – PDFPeople v Hartwick (Concurring) – PDF


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