Monthly Archives: May 2012

Michigan Supreme Court rules medical marijuana law protects patients from prosecution

The Michigan Supreme Court, in its first major ruling on a case arising out of the use of medical marijuana, said today that the voter-approved law provides relatively broad legal protection from prosecution, even for patients who do not register for a state medical marijuana card.

In a pair of cases out of Oakland and Shiawassee counties the court ruled unanimously that lower court interpretations of the marijuana statute had been too restrictive.

In the Oakland County case, the court said the law allows a person arrested on a marijuana-related offense to assert a medical marijuana defense, as long the use of marijuana was recommended by a doctor after the law was enacted in 2008 and before the arrest. Unfortunately for the defendant in the case, Alexander Kolanek, the court said he could not avail himself of the so-called affirmative defense because his doctor’s recommendation was post-arrest.

In the Shiawassee case, the Supreme Court said defendant Larry King was entitled to an evidentiary hearing on the question of whether his medical marijuana was kept in a secure facility as defined by the law.

Detroit-area medical marijuana advocate Tim Beck, who had not yet reviewed the decision this afternoon, said it sounded like the Supreme Court had overturned some of the more onerous and mis-guided interpretations of the law by the lower courts.

The state Court of Appeals, Beck said, had taken “way too narrow a view…not something that could be construed as the plain meaning of the law.”

Freep

High Praise

We get a lot of praise from our clients about the exceptional protections and legal defenses that we are able to provide. Every now and then a client takes the time to actually write about their experiences with us. Here is one such letter that we received this morning:

Dear Neil,

I wanted to take a moment to tell you and your team how grateful I am
for your representation. As you know I was refereed to you by a
friend. I believe a referral is one of the greatest compliment a
professional can get because it means that you did a great job for the
referring person as well.

I’ve read every word on you web-site and I’ve read many many articles
about you and your firm. I am here to say that all the great things
that have been written about you and your firm are 100% TRUE!!

When I received my 3rd drunk driving, I was devastated, scared and
very very concerned about my future. I went to a local lawyer first
but quickly realized that this gentleman was way out of his comfort
zone. He did a horrible job and basically left me for dead. He truly
made every aspect of my case worse.

This is when I called you to take over. Not that a 3rd offense is bad
enough, but you also had to undo all that the first guy did. Not a
small task.

Every step of the way, I felt completely protected. You and your firm
handled this case as if it was the most important case in the world.
There was amazing communication throughout the entire process and at
the end of the day you won!!!

I wont go into too much detail as to the results, but if ANYONE wants
to know just how well you did, please give them my personal number
and/or email address and I promise I will take the time to tell them
everything in detail!!

In closing, I’ve been represented by dozens of lawyers in many
different types of litigation and nobody even comes close to the level
of performance I received from you and your firm. I just wish you did
corporate work too :-). So if anyone reads this letter, please know
that by selecting NRPC you WILL NOT go wrong.

I would also like to thank Jennifer Mellas and Colin Daniels for their
outstanding contribution to my case and its success.

With absolute sincerity and gratitude,

W.H.

Appeals court: Denying federal benefits to same-sex couples is unconstitutional

A federal appeals court has ruled that the Defense of Marriage Act, a law that denies a host of federal benefits to same-sex married couples, is unconstitutional.

The 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston ruled Thursday that the act known as DoMA, which defines marriage as a union between a man and a woman, discriminates against gay couples.

The law was passed in 1996 at a time when it appeared Hawaii would legalize gay marriage. Since then, many states have instituted their own bans on gay marriage, while eight states have approved it, led by Massachusetts in 2004, and followed by Connecticut, New York, Iowa, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maryland, Washington state and the District of Columbia. Maryland and Washington’s laws are not yet in effect and may be subject to referendums.

Watch US News videos on msnbc.com

The appeals court agreed with a lower court judge who ruled in 2010 that the law is unconstitutional because it interferes with the right of a state to define marriage and denies married gay couples federal benefits given to heterosexual married couples, including the ability to file joint tax returns.

The 1st Circuit said its ruling wouldn’t be enforced until the U.S. Supreme Court decides the case, meaning that same-sex married couples will not be eligible to receive the economic benefits denied by DOMA until the high court rules.

Gay & Lesbian Advocates & Defenders, the Boston-based legal group that brought one of the lawsuits on behalf of gay married couples, said the court agreed with the couples that it is unconstitutional because it takes one group of legally married people and treats them as “a different class” by making them ineligible for benefits given to other married couples.

“We’ve been working on this issue for so many years, and for the court to acknowledge that yes, same-sex couples are legally married, just as any other couple, is fantastic and extraordinary,” said Lee Swislow, GLAD’s executive director.

“We are thrilled that another court — this time, the 1st Circuit Court of Appeals — has ruled that it is unconstitutional to deny respect to the marriages of lesbian and gay couples,” said Camilla Taylor, National Marriage Project Director for Lambda Legal. “We congratulate our colleagues at GLAD for achieving this wonderful victory.”

Earlier: Illinois same-sex couples sue for right to marry

During arguments before the court last month, a lawyer for gay married couples said the law amounts to “across-the-board disrespect.” The couples argued that the power to define and regulate marriage had been left to the states for more than 200 years before Congress passed DoMA.

An attorney defending the law argued that Congress had a rational basis for passing it in 1996, when opponents worried that states would be forced to recognize gay marriages performed elsewhere. The group said Congress wanted to preserve a traditional and uniform definition of marriage and has the power to define terms used to federal statutes to distribute federal benefits.

More than 1,000 benefits in question
Two California federal judges earlier said the act violated constitutional standards.

Judge Claudia Wilken of Oakland ruled May 24 that the law legalized bigotry by withholding more than 1,000 federal benefits — such as joint tax filing, Social Security survivor payments and immigration sponsorship — from gays and lesbians legally married under state law.

Judge Jeffrey White of San Francisco also declared DoMA unconstitutional and ordered the government to provide family insurance coverage to the wife of a lesbian court employee. White’s ruling has been appealed to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which will hear the case in September.

President Barack Obama withdrew his administration’s defense of the law in February 2011, saying he considered it unconstitutional, but it is being defended by lawyers hired by House Republican leaders.

On May 9, Obama declared in an interview with ABC News his unequivocal support for gay marriage, becoming the first president to endorse the idea.

Obama said, “I have hesitated on gay marriage in part because I thought that civil unions would be sufficient.” He added that he “was sensitive to the fact that for a lot of people the word ‘marriage’ was something that invokes very powerful traditions, religious beliefs and so forth.”

Now, he said, “it is important for me personally to go ahead and affirm that same-sex couples should be able to get married.”

via MSNBC

Michigan House Proposes Reclassifying Marijuana as a Schedule 2 Controlled Substance

In Michigan, marijuana is currently classified as a Schedule 1 Controlled Substance, meaning that it “has no medical benefits and a high likelihood of dependency or abuse.” This, despite the fact that Michiganders clearly recognized medical uses for marijuana in the Medical Marijuana Act.

For months, Neil Rockind, P.C. has been criticizing medical marijuana prosecutions and investigations. We have been beating the proverbial drum that marijuana is medicine and not a Schedule 1 drug. We’ve even convinced a judge that marijuana was not properly classified.

Today, the Michigan House proposed a bill that amongst other things, modifies Medical Marijuana to a Schedule 2 controlled substance. The bill that proposes to make synthetic drugs illegal also proposes to modify medical marijuana. Take a look:

http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billintroduced/House/pdf/2012-HIB-5681.pdf

See page 9 of this newly introduced house bill: http://www.legislature.mi.gov/documents/2011-2012/billintroduced/House/pdf/2012-HIB-5681.pdf

“MARIHUANA AND THE SUBSTANCES DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (1)(D) AND (E) ARE SCHEDULE 2 CONTROLLED SUBSTANCES IF THEY ARE MANUFACTURED, OBTAINED, STORED, DISPENSED, POSSESSED, AND USED IN COMPLIANCE WITH ARTICLE 8 OR ARE OBTAINED, STORED, POSSESSED, AND USED IN COMPLIANCE WITH THE MICHIGAN MEDICAL MARIHUANA ACT, 2008 IL 1, MCL 333.26421 TO 333.26430.”

Felonious Assault Trial = NOT GUILTY!

People are falsely accused of crimes all the time. There are a million and one reasons why someone would falsely accuse someone else of a crime: To protect themselves, to protect their family, to dispose of a problem, etc. In late February, our client came to us and told us that someone was accusing him of a crime that he did not commit and that they were doing so purely out of spite.

Our client, a man in his late 50’s, was accused by two teenage boys of attempting to run them over with his vehicle. Further, when police went to go question our client about the accusations, our client became angered and told the police to get off of his property. The police felt disrespected and proceeded to illegally arrest and taze our client several times. Ultimately, our client was charged with Resisting and Obstructing Causing Injury to a Police Office and 2 counts of Felonious Assault with a Deadly Weapon, to-wit: a vehicle.

It took a lot of motion work, and a hearing, but eventually we proved to the trial judge that the police had attempted to illegally arrest our client on his own private property, and therefore he was well within his rights to resist the arrest. Based on that, the trial judge completely dismissed the Resisting and Obstructing charge.

Subsequently we proceeded to trial on the 2 counts of Felonious Assault.

Neil was fantastic in trial. Initially, we had planned on calling 2 witnesses: our client and his daughter, to testify to the fact that our client had never tried to run anyone over with his car. However, after Neil’s cross-examination of these two teenage boys, Neil felt so confident that we would obtain a not guilty verdict, that we opted not to call a single witness!

The prosecutor called the two boys to testify to the events that had allegedly taken place. Yet, upon cross-examination, each boy’s testimony was wildly different from the other.

Based upon this cross-examination alone, the trier of fact determined that there was insufficient evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that our client had done anything illegal.

Upon the conclusion of the prosecutor’s proofs, the verdict was read in open court: NOT GUILTY! These are the two best words in the English language for someone who is wrongly accused.

– Colin A. Daniels

Poll shows strong support for legal marijuana: Is it inevitable?

A national Rasmussen Reports poll found that 56 percent of Americans back legal marijuana regulated like tobacco or alcohol. Trends show support on the upswing.

A new national poll shows a clear majority of Americans in favor of legalizing and regulating marijuana – “the strongest support ever recorded,” according to one pro-marijuana activist.

The Rasmussen poll found that 56 percent of respondents favored legalizing and regulating marijuana similar to the way alcohol and tobacco cigarettes are currently regulated. Thirty-six percent were opposed.

Critics have dismissed the survey, saying its questions were asked in a particularly leading fashion – a charge that Rasmussen contests. But experts who track the issue say the poll is consistent with the overall trend of steadily rising acceptance of marijuana use.

Despite California’s failure to pass Proposition 19 in 2010 – which would have legalized recreational use – some state may legalize marijuana soon, perhaps as early as this November, says Robert MacCoun, a professor at the University of California at Berkeley School of Law, who follows marijuana laws. That means it is time to consider shifting the debate from legalization to consideration of how it should be done, he adds.

“For example, if we tax and regulate, should we tax by weight or should we tax by THC content to discourage the most potent products?” he asks. “Can we set taxes high enough to offset the inevitable steep drop in prices or are we willing to allow consumption to increase?”

Anti-marijuana groups say those questions are premature. If Rasmussen had put facts in the question’s premises, the outcome would have been the opposite, they say.

“If they had asked, ‘If you knew that a majority of homicide convicts in New York had smoked marijuana within 24 hours of their convictions, would you be in favor of legalizing it?’ they would have gotten a far different answer,” says David Evans, special adviser to the Drug Free America Foundation. “These questions are so biased and leading, it’s embarrassing.”

He cites Question 10: “As long as they don’t do anything to harm others, should individuals have the right to put whatever drugs or medication they want into their own bodies?”

“This is a clearly very biased finding,” he says. “They’ve asked leading questions to get the responses they wanted.”

Beth Chunn, spokesman for Rasmussen Reports, disagrees. She says the firm conducted the study the way it did to answer a specific question: “This survey tested whether legalization and regulation generated more support than legalizing and taxing. It did.”

Pro-marijuana groups are using the findings to argue that the Obama administration’s raids on state medical marijuana dispensaries are not in concert with the public’s wishes, and that politicians who don’t support further relaxation of penalties are behind the times.

“This is the strongest support ever recorded in favor of marijuana legalization in the US,” says Dale Gieringer, state coordinator of California NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). “It confirms a trend that originated in 2009, when for the first time polls began to show plurality support for legalization.”

He says the trend can be expected to continue, since younger voters are more favorable toward ending marijuana prohibition than older ones. “Politicians ought to take note of the changing political wind,” he says. “Marijuana legalization appears destined to become the next big social freedom issue after gay rights.”

Other supporters of a more liberal US drug policy also seized on the poll. They say this shows the drug war has failed, and that it’s time not only to ease up on social attitudes while bringing in much needed revenue for strapped government.

“Polling now consistently shows that more voters support legalizing and regulating marijuana than support continuing a failed prohibition approach,” says Neill Franklin, executive director of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (LEAP). “If the trends in public opinion continue in the direction they are going, the day is not far away when supporting a prohibition system that causes so much crime, violence, and corruption is going to be seen as a serious political liability for those seeking support from younger and independent voters.”

The telephone survey of 1,000 likely voters was conducted May 12.

via Yahoo