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Detroit Legal Blog

Toking in Public

Dec 29, 2015, by Maurice Davis in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes, Legal Blog, Marijuana

It may be legal to buy cannabis in Michigan, but you can still get in trouble if you smoke it in the wrong place. Michigan resident and medical marijuana user Robert M. Carlton found this out the hard way when he was busted for smoking pot in his car outside of the Soaring Eagle Casino in Mount Pleasant.

He got charged for smoking marijuana in a public place, which is prohibited under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Despite an early victory for Carlton, in which the county judge ruled that his car was a private area in which he was free to smoke pot, the appeals court later overturned the decision.

It’s Illegal to Smoke Pot in a Car Parked in a Public Place

The appellate court ruling means that a car is not necessarily a private place. A person does retain a limited right of privacy in one’s car, as evidenced by the fact that the police cannot freely conduct a search of a vehicle unless they have probable cause or the consent of the owner. But for the purposes of medical marijuana law, a car is considered a public place as long as it is located in a public area.

The appellate court judges compared smoking pot in a car in a public parking lot with smoking pot in a bathroom stall in a public restroom. While in both cases the occupant has an articulable right to privacy, that person is still essentially in a public place. Since smoking marijuana in a public bathroom is illegal, the judges reasoned that it should also be illegal to smoke pot in a car parked in public.

The court was unwilling to interpret a “public place” as anything other than its plain meaning in the context of the medical marihuana act. This means that if you’re a medical marijuana user, you should never smoke in a place that is “is open to or may be used by the members of the community, or that is otherwise not restricted to the private use of a defined group of persons.”

Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Laws Are Set to Change

While it is unlikely that the upcoming reform of Michigan’s medical marijuana laws will affect people’s ability to smoke in public places, there are some important changes. The state will:

  • Create a seed-to-sale tracking system
  • Allow for marijuana dispensaries
  • Establish new rules and regulations for dispensary sales and marijuana cultivation
  • Create a 3% tax on medical marijuana sales
  • Allow the legal sale of edibles and oils

Medical marijuana may be legal in Michigan, but you can still face charges if you act outside of the narrow scope of its medical marijuana legislation. It’s also possible to face federal charges since marijuana is illegal at the federal level—whether for medical or recreational purposes. Michigan criminal defense attorney Maurice Davis is a Michigan criminal defense lawyer with a proven track record of obtaining positive results on behalf of his clients in the Detroit area. If you want to talk about your case, you can call today at (313) 818-3238 for a free and confidential consultation.