Kent County

Marijuana in Michigan: What's legal?

GRAND RAPIDS TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids man busted with $1,040 and enough marijuana for a felony charge was supposed to be sentenced Friday.

Then he was told to not even show up at 63rd District Court.

The fallout from Tuesday's vote to legalize marijuana in Michigan continues. It has led to plenty of confusion — prosecutors considering dropping pending pot cases, and some judges putting them on hold.

"I don't want some guy, because he came in on a Wednesday, to plead guilty to something that Thursday is going to be zero. So, we're kind of taking a wait-and-see approach," said 63rd District Court Judge Sara Smolenski.

It was Smolenski who was supposed to sentence the 23-year-old Grand Rapids man Friday.

The case started in August, when Kent County deputies found him parked at The Salvation Army on Alpine Avenue NW in Alpine Township. They found 2 grams of marijuana in his pants pockets and 28 grams in the console of his car, along with a scale and the money. It was enough to charge him with possession with intent to deliver marijuana.

That felony carries up to four years in prison. He pleaded guilty to a less serious misdemeanor charge of possession.

But under the new law, which is expected to go into effect in December, what the Grand Rapids man had would have been perfectly legal. The 30 grams he had is barely more than an ounce; the law allows more than twice that.

The Kent County prosecutor has said he's considering dropping pending use and possession cases, at least for people 21 years and older.

That likely would not apply to a 19-year-old woman recently busted for using marijuana, whose case was delayed earlier this week by another judge.

"I was very relieved, did not think it would happen," the woman told 24 Hour News 8.

But because she's under 21, she could still face a civil infraction, and a $100 fine.

The Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan has issued guidelines for pot cases under the new law.

>>Inside woodtv.com: Michigan's Recreational Marihuana Law (PDF) | Marijuana penalties

If you're under 21, it will still be illegal to possess or use marijuana, but the cases will be civil infractions, similar to being a minor in possession of alcohol.

But here's where it gets a little tricky: if you're 18 to 20 years old, it's a simple $100 fine. If you're under age 18, it's a $100 fine and four hours of drug counseling.

The fines go up to $500 for a second offense.

What is legal?  If you're 21 and over, you can carry up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, keep up to 10 ounces at home and grow 12 plants for yourself, also at home. But you can't smoke it in public.

Then, there's this: If you're 21 and over, you can give away up to 2.5 ounces of weed, but you can't get paid for it.

Even judges are trying to keep up.

"The voters have spoken, but there's a lot of work that needs to be done to make sure everybody understands what the law is," Smolenski said.

She said she voted “no” on the marijuana proposal, fearing what would happen on the roads.

"We don't want people operating vehicles when they ought not to be," she said. "That's my worry."

 


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