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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 05/02/12
Attorney describes hazy
medical marijuana laws
by CHRIS GRAYAmbiguous laws regarding medical marijuana continue to cause confusion for local law enforcement officials.
Observer Staff Writer
The Northwest Macomb Prevention Coalition (NWMPC) learned that the law, voted in by Michigan residents in 2008, is still causing problems for law enforcement agencies that are already stretched too thin.
The NWMPC learned of the difficulties medical marijuana laws are causing from John Gemellaro, an assistant prosecutor with the Macomb County Prosecutor's Office.
The NWMPC asked him to give his thoughts and knowledge on the subject as opposed to speaking on behalf of his office.
With his background of two years as an attorney in Oakland County and six months at his current position, Gemellaro called Michigan's medical marijuana law a "defense attorney's dream."
"There's a ton of ambiguity in it, there's a ton of contradictions in it, so we're really relying on the Legislature and the Court of Appeals and Michigan Supreme Court to bring a lot of that clarity," he said.
For example, it's illegal to smoke marijuana in public, but it's considered the best way to take the drug.
Gemellaro said people have devised ways of putting marijuana-based oil into everything from baked goods to soap and sprays to get around this restriction.
"The law says no smoking marijuana in public," he said. "Next time you see someone eating a cookie, think about it, and now this person is going to get in the car, so what really have we done by saying `no smoking?'"
Some Michigan cases have solved complications like this. The Michigan Court of Appeals recently decided that medical marijuana cardholders cannot operate a vehicle, just as those without a card cannot do the same.
Gemellaro said if there is even .01 nanogram of THC (the chemical in marijuana) in a driver's blood they are charged. He said this better reflects what the medical marijuana law should be.
"In my opinion it's good because we can't determine when someone is actually impaired by marijuana because marijuana stays in your blood for a long time," he said.
Unlike prescribed drugs, he said there is no indication as to how long an amount of medical marijuana is expected to last and how exactly to use it.
"Pills are scientifically formulated to do certain things over a certain amount of time, you don't have that with marijuana," Gemellaro said.
The issue of carrying marijuana is also ambiguous. The law permits 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana on one cardholder, but this doesn't include seeds, stalks and stems. He said these are used to make marijuana-infused oils for cooking or direct use.
The biggest mistake he hears is that marijuana is legal. He said the state allows for medicinal use of marijuana, but the substance is still illegal under federal law.
For instance, Michigan's law states money transactions for marijuana are illegal, although patient-to-patient transfers are legal.
"We have this idea that `I'm going to sell you my pen for $200 and you're going to get a free bag of marijuana with it,'" Gemellaro said. "Would a jury of six or 12 believe that? Probably not. But is it an issue that I have to address going forward? It certainly is."
He said the registration for receiving a card has issues as well. Gemellaro said there must be a doctor-patient relationship and the person must be diagnosed with particular ailments, but the system isn't perfect.
"Most of the people that we see with medical marijuana cards are under 30, under 40," he said. "I'm not saying the entire system is a hoax . . . but there's a lot of people out there that are abusing it."
Overall, he said law enforcement needs to spend its resources wisely when investigating medical marijuana cases.
"We would like to be able to go through and prosecute every single crime on every single level, from top to bottom, but realistically it's just unrealistic," he said.