(May 9, 2017) The air just got a little clearer for medical marijuana caregivers when it comes to determining how much of the drug they can keep on hand for patients. The Michigan Court of Appeals, in People v. Manuel, ruled that it’s the “dried” weight, not the “drying” weight, that counts when determining whether a caregiver with a grow operation is in compliance with the law, and therefore afforded protection under Section 4 of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA).
Police raided the home of a Lansing-area man with valid patient and caregiver registrations. Under the law, he is allowed to possess 72 plants, and 15 ounces, or roughly 425.24 grams, of “usable” marijuana-which equals 12 plants and 2.5 ounces of medicine per patient, counting himself and five patients. If a caregiver is within those limits, the caregiver is protected from prosecution. Police found, in an enclosed and locked area of his home, several tins of processed marijuana in various phases of drying. When police weighed the still-drying plant products shortly after the seizure, the weight exceeded the legal limit. But within six weeks, it had dried completely, was re-weighed, and found to be within the legal weight.
Expert testimony established that the weight disparity was due to drying, and until medical marijuana is properly dried, it is not usable under the MMMA. In Manuel, the caregiver was exempt from prosecution because, as it turned out, the amount of “usable” medicine dehydrated enough to fall within the law.
What’s the rule of thumb then for patients and caregivers trying to determine how much medicine should be kept on-hand until dry enough to be usable? In six weeks, the mass of the defendant’s supply in People v. Manuel shrunk by 127 grams. Living cannabis plant leaves are about 80 percent water; colas are about 70 percent water. “Usable” marijuana contains between roughly 8 to 10 percent water. Since different parts of different plants are harvested at different times, medical marijuana plant products are constantly in different states of drying, which makes it nearly impossible to determine how much processed medicine can be kept on hand and still be within the law. The safest course, therefore, would seem to be to adhere to the 2.5 ounces per patient limit at the time of collecting the living plan components.
If you would like to speak with a Rhoades McKee attorney about this article or the status of Michigan law concerning the use of medical marijuana, regulations concerning the operation of a medical marijuana dispensary, the operation of marijuana growing or transportation operations, please contact Joe Lucas.
Disclaimer: While many states, including Michigan, have legalized the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes, a) applicable Federal law still considers the use or possession of marijuana to be a crime; and b) even in states that have legalized the use of medical marijuana, there is a great deal of uncertainty regarding the use and regulation of the drug. Therefore, Rhoades McKee offers this legal alert for general informational purposes only, and encourages readers to consult with a lawyer before engaging in any conduct that they believe may be protected under state or local ordinances concerning the growth, distribution or use of medical marijuana.More Legal Alerts