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Michigan Court: MMJ Patients Cannot Smoke Weed in Cars Outside a Public Place

Taken at the 2012 Woodward Dream Cruise
Photo by Joe DeSousa


Michigan Court: MMJ Patients Cannot Smoke Weed in Cars Outside a Public Place

Michigan medical marijuana patients were dealt a disappointing blow earlier this week after a state Court of Appeals ruled that smoking weed in a car parked outside a public establishment was not an acceptable means for medicating while away from home.

The verdict, which was handed down in a decision of 2 to 1, determined that the state’s medical marijuana law does protect registered patients from laws associated with public consumption – even if they use their own vehicle away from areas that are frequented by the public.

At the core of this case is Robert Carlton, a medical marijuana cardholder, who was busted in 2013 for smoking weed outside a local casino. The man’s attorney argued that his client was free from prosecution on this particular charge because his vehicle was not a public place. However, two of the judges found his argument to be a stretch in determining the definition of “public” and “private.”

“The lot remains a public place and the fact that a person in a vehicle occupies a place that can be characterized as private in some limited sense does not alter the fact that the person is at the same time located in a public place,” the judges wrote in their decision.

“And, as with the bathroom stall, whether the members of the general public are able to see the person smoking medical marijuana does not alter the public character of the place.”

However, one judge was on the side of Mr. Carlton on this matter. Judge Douglas Shapiro wrote in his opposing statement that Michigan’s medical marijuana law, while prohibiting consumption in areas of public transportation, gives way to the potential for a personal vehicle to be construed as a public place.

“For this reason, I think the majority is too quick to ignore the common-sense privacy component of a personal vehicle,” Shapiro wrote in his dissent.

“The majority looks only at whether the vehicle itself is in a place defined as public,” he continued. “But the statutory language leaves open the possibility that in some circumstances a private vehicle can constitute a ‘private place’ even though it is located in an area to which the public has access.”

In the end, unfortunately, the majority determined that “smoking marijuana in a public place should continue to be criminally prosecuted, even when done for a medical purpose.”

What do you think? Should medical cannabis patients be able to medicate in their cars? Tell us in the comments below. 

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