The likelihood of black-market marijuana growers in Michigan facing full-blown, paramilitary-style raids featuring battering rams and heavily armed narcotics teams has diminished.
Growing illegal marijuana in Michigan, even potentially thousands of plants, is only a misdemeanor crime, the state Court of Appeals ruled on Oct. 5.
The severe prison terms tacked onto marijuana prohibition laws of the past have been eliminated by newer, more lenient laws, the court said.
Attorneys and marijuana industry insiders who spoke to MLive, however, say illegal growers could still face serious punishment for other crimes, such as tax evasion, and the seizure of their valuable marijuana.
“There was never any need for there to be a military invasion, felony or any long sentences or anything like that, so that worked out,” said marijuana activist Jamie Lowell, who helped write the law that reduced penalties. “There are limits and there are parameters and if someone gets outside of them there are consequences, but it’s just cannabis.”
The appellate court said marijuana-related punishments contained in a 1978 drug law — up to 15 years in prison for possessing more than 99 pounds or 200 marijuana plants — no longer stand. Similar crimes today should be charged as misdemeanors, punishable by up to 93 days in jail, under the 2018, voter-passed Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act
Since passage of the the act in 2018, more than 3,500 people have been charged and 1,072 convicted under the outdated 1978 law, according to analysis provided to MLive by Michigan Supreme Court spokesman John Nevin.
Those defendants may have grounds to fight their prior convictions.