LANSING — The Michigan Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide a key issue in the wide-ranging disputes over Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law: whether registered patients can sell marijuana to other registered patients.
An appeals court decision last year prohibiting such sales resulted in the closure of dozens of so-called marijuana dispensaries across the state.
“I think this is one of the most important cases (the court) will hear this year,” said Mary Chartier, a Lansing attorney who represents the owners of a closed marijuana retail facility in Mt. Pleasant that was targeted by the Isabella County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010 as a public nuisance.
“It has far-reaching implications for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people,” Chartier said.
The case involves the Compassionate Apothecary, where registered patient customers bought pot from stock provided by other registered patients in transactions facilitated by the dispensary’s owners.
A lower court found that patient-to-patient sales were permitted under Michigan law and allowed the dispensary to remain in operation. It closed after last year’s appellate ruling.
Prosecutors and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argue that the only sales of marijuana allowed under the law are those by a registered caregiver to his or her registered patients. They asked the courts to order Compassionate Apothecary and other retail sales outlets closed.
Chartier said she thinks the Supreme Court will recognize that the statute, approved by voters 63%-37% in 2008, clearly permits the transfer of marijuana between patients registered under the act — as dispensaries had been doing until the appellate court ruling, she said. Without such a mechanism, vulnerable patients often are forced to seek medication on the illegal black market, Chartier said.
Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said in a statement after the high court agreed to hear the case: “The Court of Appeals decision echoed the concerns of law enforcement and communities struggling with the negative impact of illegal sales, and we expect that the Supreme Court will support the lower court’s opinion.”
Other legal battles over the medical marijuana law have arisen over undercover police stings at dispensaries, whether patients are protected by the law prior to obtaining state registration and the conditions under which plants can be grown and stored.