Transporting Marijuana in Michigan

Transporting Marijuana in Michigan

A new marijuana law that impacts the rights of medical marijuana patients under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) MCL 333.26421 took effect on April 1st of 2013.   The new law is called “Transporting or Possession of Usable Marihuana.” MCL 750.474.

MCL 750.474 states:

(1) A person shall not transport or possess usable marihuana as defined in section 26423 of the public health code, MCL 333.26423, in or upon a motor vehicle or any self-propelled vehicle designed for land travel unless the usable marihuana is 1 or more of the following:

(a)  Enclosed in a case that is carried in the trunk of the vehicle.

(b)  Enclosed in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle, if the vehicle in which the person is traveling does not have a trunk.

(2)  A person who violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor punishable by imprisonment for not more than 93 days or a fine of not more than $500.00, or both.

This law is similar to the laws regarding transporting firearms in Michigan.  If your automobile has a trunk, the marijuana must be placed in the trunk within a closed container.  A “case” is not defined by MCL 750.474 or MCL 333.26423.  Using the ordinary definition of case, the marijuana should be transported in a closable box, chest, or suitcase.  In the future, the courts will define exactly what a “case” means under this statute.  To prevent yourself from being charged with this crime and becoming a test case for this statute, carry the marijuana within something that resembles a box, preferably something that closes and locks.  I would not carry the marijuana inside a plastic bag within the trunk, or within a mason jar within the trunk.  This may seem like overkill, but it only takes one disgruntled prosecutor to charge this crime, best to take every precaution to avoid a real headache.  The reason for a closable box, chest, or suitcase becomes more evident where the automobile doesn’t have a trunk.  In these cases, the marijuana is located within the confines of the passenger compartment.  The intent of this law is to prevent easy access to an intoxicating drug while the car is moving.  A secondary intent could also be to prevent marijuana disclosure to the public.  So within a station wagon car, the best location for the marijuana would be the furthest point from the driver.  The marijuana should be hidden, or within a closable box, chest, or suitcase, so that it isn’t readily visible from someone walking next to the car looking within the car.  If you carry the marijuana within a jar, people walking by could spot it.  Again, the best approach is to transport the marijuana in a closable box, chest, or suitcase, away from public view.

Usable marijuana is defined as the following:

MCL 333.26423(k): “Usable marihuana” means the dried leaves and flowers of the marihuana plant, and any mixture or preparation thereof, but does not include the seeds, stalks, and roots of the plant.  The important meaning to take away from this definition is that usable marijuana represents the finished product ready for consumption.  This includes any eatable marijuana products.  So what about transporting living marijuana plants?  Transporting green plants would fail outside of this statute, and a good criminal defense attorney could defeat the charge based on that fact.  The rules found for transporting green living marijuana plants are found in MCL 333.26423 (d) . . . . Enclosed, locked facility includes a motor vehicle if both of the following conditions are met:

(1)  The vehicle is being used temporarily to transport living marihuana plants from 1 location to another with the intent to permanently retain those plants at the second location.

(2)  An individual is not inside the vehicle unless he or she is either the registered qualifying patient to whom the living marihuana plants belong or the individual designated through the department registration process as the primary caregiver for the registered qualifying patient.

It is not difficult to imagine a scenario where a MMMA patient or caregiver transport potted marijuana plants in the bed of a pick-up truck.  Suck use of an open bed truck would surely fall outside of the definition of enclosed locked facility.  Again, the definition of vehicle, whether an open bed truck fails within the definition of vehicle and or enclosed lock facility, must be decided by a Court.  So in order to prevent becoming the test case for the above issue, for now, MMMA patients and caregivers should avoid using trucks for transporting living plants, unless there is a truck bed cab that is lockable or the plants are within the passenger compartment.  It is also worth noting that there may not be a passenger within the vehicle while transporting living plants.  The only passenger within the automobile should either be the registered patient or the designated caregiver.

Finally both statutes regarding the transportation of usable marijuana and living marijuana plants conflict with the definition of “Medical Use” found at MCL 333.26423(f).  Until this conflict between the definitions and statutes are resolved by a Court, a good defense counsel may use this conflict as leverage to secure a good plea deal for their clients or a dismissal.

If you are in need of a criminal defense attorney in the Traverse City region or northern michigan, please call today for an appointment.

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