People v. Mazur – Michigan Supreme Court, decided June 11, 2015

The spouse of a caregiver was charged with manufacturing and possessing marijuana contrary to the medical marijuana and controlled substances act. Specifically, Cynthia Mazur was charged because she admitted to the extent of her involvement in her husband’s cultivation operation as writing the date of harvest for marijuana plants on several sticky notes. Her attorney sought to dismiss the charges based upon the section 4 affirmative defenses that relate to a person who is not a patient or caregiver but was merely present pursuant to Section 4(i) or providing marijuana paraphernalia pursuant to Section 4(g) of MCL 333.26424.

The court first clarified Section 4(i) by stating that it offers two separate and distinct forms of immunity (1) for merely being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana in accordance with the act or (2) assisting a qualified patient with the ingestion and administration (as opposed to the broader term of “medical use”) of marijuana. Because there was evidence that the defendant’s husband was not in compliance with the MMMA, the court ruled that Cynthia could therefore not be immune for being in the presence or vicinity of the medical use of marijuana.

This is a very important ruling as it means that any person that is merely present around someone using marijuana could be breaking the law if the marijuana user was not using marijuana in accordance with the act. It places a seemingly unreasonable burden to investigate any person using marijuana in their presence to ensure that it is done so strictly in accordance with the MMMA. The court did note that Cynthia and anyone similarly situated could still challenge whether the marijuana user was acting in accordance with the Act. In this case, it would have been difficult because the husband plead guilty to manufacturing and possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver it. Interestingly, the court stated that “We recognize the apparent inequity of holding one individual responsible for another’s wrongdoing” but that is the interpretation the statute demands.

Further the court ruled that Cynthia’s sticky notes were not assisting her husband in the administration or ingestion of marijuana but rather the cultivation which is not a permissible act for protection under section 4(i).

Section 4(g) on the other hand, provides protection to those who provide marijuana paraphernalia for the purposes of medical use. Most interestingly, unlike the first protection in Section 4(i), Section 4(g) does not disqualify the immunity of the medical use is not in accordance with the provisions of the act. This means that if a person can provide paraphernalia to a medical marijuana user lawfully even if the user is not strictly in accordance with the act. The important question then is “what is the definition of marijuana paraphernalia?”

The court provided a very broad definition of marijuana paraphernalia and did not limit it to its traditional definition. Paraphernalia is defined as equipment, apparatus, or furnishings used in or necessary for a particular activity, in this case, the “medical use” of marijuana. Therefore, paraphernalia is not only specifically designed for smoking or using marijuana – it is much more broad. The Act’s definition of “medical use” includes the “acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, internal possession, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marihuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marihuana to treat or alleviate a registered qualifying patient’s debilitating medical condition.”

In this case, defendant provided her husband, who was both a qualifying patient and a registered caregiver, with sticky notes for the purpose of detailing the harvest dates of his plants.8 This activity constitutes the provision of “marihuana paraphernalia” because the objects were actually used in the cultivation or manufacture of marijuana.

Because the court used a broad definition of marijuana paraphernalia, and pointing out that section 4(g) immunity does not require strict compliance with the Act, this case opens up for good argument to protect activities by non patients and non caregivers in assisting others with the medical use of marijuana provided it can arguably fit the definition of marijuana paraphernalia.