Last week, Michigan's Court of Appeals issued an order denying a motion asking them to reverse their previous opinion related to seven defendants associated with the Clinical Relief medical marijuana dispensary in Ferndale, Michigan.
Defense attorney Stuart Friedman argued in his September 30, 2013 motion for rehearing that the COA "improperly ruled that the provision in the Public Health Code purporting to abrogate strict construction of penal laws controlled. Contrary to what the [COA] opined, there was a valid and reasonable interpretation that the Defendants’ conduct was reasonable. Lastly, [the COA’s] ruling improperly limited controlling Michigan Supreme Court authority... By narrowly reading the Medical Marihuana Act and expansively reading the penal statute, [the COA] has effectively created a structure which encourages novel prosecution theories against medical marijuana users. This will result in a chilling effect on patients partaking of the very rights that the voter’s intended to give them.”
The Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office filed their reply on October 3, 2012 and reiterated that “the trial court failed to determine that each defendant was ‘assisting a registered qualifying patient’ with regard to each charge for which they were being prosecuted.” They also asserted in their reply that Michigan Supreme Court "did not overrule precedent and therefore was not a law-changing opinion. The law on a subject is viewed as unsettled until the Supreme Court speaks and therefore defendants do not have a reliance interest until the highest court of the jurisdiction rules.”
The COA's September 10, 2013 opinion in the Clinical Relief case held that: "This is not a case in which marijuana dispensaries were authorized by statute and then, by judicial interpretation, deemed illegal... defendants were never led to believe by a judicial decision of this Court or our Supreme Court that operating a marijuana dispensary was permitted under the MMMA. And, third, defendants have not identified any allegedly ambiguous provision of the MMMA which could have reasonably led them to believe that operating a marijuana dispensary was permitted under the MMMA..."
Law enforcement authorities and the Oakland Co. prosecutor’s office have claimed that the Clinical Relief employees and associates were operating an illegal dispensary. The attorneys for the Clinical Relief defendants filed motions to dismiss their criminal charges based on the common law rule of lenity. They argued that, at the time the alleged illegal acts occurred, Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) was ambiguous regarding patient-to-patient sales of medical marijuana and that their clients did not receive a fair warning that their dispensary activities were unlawful.
All charges filed against the Clinical Relief seven were originally dismissed by Oakland County Circuit Judge Daniel O'Brien in January of 2012.
The COA’s September 10 holding “[r]eversed and remanded for reinstatement of the charges against defendants…”
(This reporter videotaped the People v Clinical Relief oral arguments, which were held by the COA on August 6, 2013 and are streaming online at: http://vimeo.com/71930675 )