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Michigan Attorney General to Defend Medical Marijuana Conviction

Jim Finnel

Fallen Cannabis Warrior & Ex News Moderator
The Michigan Attorney General's Office announced Monday that it has filed a brief on behalf of the Cass County Prosecutor's Office and will defend an appeal in the medical marijuana case against Howard Township resident Sylvester Vanderbutts.

Vanderbutts was found guilty at a jury trial in April 2010, accused of possessing more than 40 marijuana plants and almost a pound of marijuana, which authorities say is in violation of the limits set for registered medical marijuana patients under Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act ( MMMA ).

The case set a precedence in Cass County as the first of its kind to go to a jury trial.

Vanderbutts, 53, who had qualified for a medical marijuana card from the Michigan Department of Community Health ( MDCH ), was charged criminally by Cass County because he possessed more than the permitted amount under the MMMA. Vanderbutts also admitted he had previously supplied marijuana to four other individuals, despite the fact that he was not authorized as a registered caregiver under the MMMA.

Vanderbutts later filed an appeal of his conviction with the Michigan Court of Appeals. Because the Michigan Attorney General's Appellate Division handles criminal appeals from felony convictions for Michigan counties with a population of 75,000 or less, Attorney General Bill Schuette's office is leading the team working to defend the conviction.

In his brief, Schuette argues that Vanderbutts was not entitled to a defense under the MMMA because he exceeded the prescribed possession limit, had more marijuana than was reasonably necessary for his own needs and possessed and grew marijuana that was not for his use.

"The people of Michigan approved this law with the expectation that limits on medical marijuana possession would be strictly enforced," Schuette said. "We will continue to join county prosecutors to ensure the health and safety of the general public is protected."

Cass County Circuit Court Judge Michael Dodge stayed on the bottom of the sentencing guidelines -- which called for zero to nine months in jail -- and sentenced Vanderbutts in May to 18 months probation and 90 days on a Michigan Department of Corrections tether.

At the trial, Vanderbutts claimed the MMMA gives patients a defense even if they exceed the 2.5 ounces or a 12-plant limit as long as they do not exceed an amount reasonably necessary for their own use.

Vanderbutts said in court during his sentencing that he has an ulcer in his stomach and he uses the marijuana to alleviate the pain. He said when he is taking marijuana, he can lead an active life, which includes going to the YMCA five days week and being active at his church.

Vanderbutts, who claimed it would take just minutes for the jury to find him innocent, collapsed in court upon hearing the guilty verdict.

NewsHawk: Jim Behr: 420 MAGAZINE
Source: South Bend Tribune (IN)
Copyright: 2011 South Bend Tribune
Contact: vop@sbtinfo.com
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