People v Hartwick & People v Tuttle – Defining The MMMA

At the end July 2015, the Michigan Supreme Court (MSC) issues a written opinion in two different cases, known as People v Hartwick and People v Tuttle. This opinion provides a specific and detail analysis of what is required by an individual wanting to present an Immunity defense, under § 4 of the MMMA, and an Affirmative defense, under § 8 of the MMMA.

Essentially, the Court in People v Hartwick answered multiple questions dealing with both defenses found under the MMMA. One primary issue that the court considered was what the burden of proof the defendant has when presenting a defense under § 4 or § 8. The MMMA was silent on the burden of proof required to substantiate either defense, and inevitably the Court determined that under both defense a preponderance of the evidence standard would be followed. In general terms, a preponderance of the evidence burden standard can be compared to a balancing of scales: if the defendant show by 51% that he has substantiated the elements under either defense he or she would have satisfied his or her burden for that particular defense.

Another interesting determination in People v Hartwick was in regards to § 4 and where the Court explained that a claim for immunity will not be considered a catch-all type of rule. What this means is that an individual who may have conduct that is illegal or outside the confines of § 4 will not be precluded from using the immunity defense on all conduct that is being alleged against him. Essentially, what this means is that a court must apply the immunity defense independently to each individual charge that a defendant faces. This is very unique for MMMA cases, but it is also complex.

The largest impact or defining moment within People v Hartwick is the holding the Court made on § 8. The Court explained that an individual who possesses a valid Michigan Medical Marihuana card does not automatically, or presumptively, meet the first element of a § 8 defense. This means that an individual defendant wanting to provide a defense under § 8 of the MMMA must provide specific evidence establishing by a preponderance of the evidence that “[a] physician has stated that, in the physician’s professional opinion, after having completed a full assessment of the patient’s medical history and current medical condition made in the course of a bona fide physician-patient relationship, the patient is likely to receive therapeutic or palliative benefit from the medical use of marihuana to treat or alleviate the patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition or symptoms of the patient’s serious or debilitating medical condition.” People v Hartwick.

The Court in People v Hartwick took this a step further and explained that an individual caregiver wanting to rely on a § 8 defense must substantiate certain and specific facts regarding the patient that he or she is assisting. Specifically, the caregiver would need to establish the same facts as a patient presenting the § 8 defense for him or herself. These facts would include but are not limited to the amount of marihuana needed or required to treat the patient’s medical condition or establishing that the patient has satisfied the bona-fide physician/patient relationship.

The MSC in People v Hartwick, at the end of the day, provided guidance on what is needed in order to establish the defense found within the MMMA; however, the evidentiary requirements under § 8 have been narrowed. This narrowing in the interpretation of the MMMA will require individuals looking to maintain a § 8 defense to maintain specific information and explanation in regards to his or her medical use of marihuana. This ideal applies to both caregivers and patients.

Contact your Michigan Marihuana Lawyer today, so you can continue to smoke carefree.

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About Josh Jones

Josh Jones is an experienced and professional Michigan Criminal Defense attorney presenting Metro Detroit, Genesee County, Livingston County, Lapeer County, and others throughout the State of Michigan. He is available 7-days a week and handles all felonies, misdemeanors, probation violations, traffic tickets, and drivers license restoration. Josh is only a phone call away and is here to help when you are involved with the criminal justice system.