DETROIT — Michigan's medical-marijuana law does not allow a collective grow operation, the state Supreme Court said last week in the case of a Grand Rapids man who gave warehouse space to others to raise pot.
The unanimous decision provides more clarity about a 4-year-old law that was approved by voters by a wide margin but lacked details in key areas.
Ryan Bylsma was charged when Grand Rapids police counted 88 plants during a raid at a commercial building. He is a state-approved caregiver who could grow 24 plants for two people authorized to use marijuana to alleviate the side effects of certain illnesses.
But Bylsma also allowed other caregivers and marijuana users to keep plants in the same space. Kent County authorities said the arrangement was illegal and charged him with manufacturing marijuana. The Supreme Court unanimously agreed, saying the number of plants added up to illegal possession.
Bylsma "exercised dominion and control overall the plants in the warehouse space that he leased, not merely the plants in which he claimed an ownership interest," the court said.
Nonetheless, the justices sent the case back to Kent County court to allow Bylsma to offer another possible defense not argued in previous hearings.
"They have broken new ground," defense attorney Bruce Alan Block said. "It was not clear if you could grow together. It would have helped if Mr. Bylsma had this opinion in 2010."
Assistant prosecutor Greg Boer said he's "very satisfied" with the court's decision.
Michigan has approved 126,000 people for medical marijuana, and an additional 26,000 can grow pot for them as caregivers. The state Supreme Court is expected to soon decide whether marijuana can be sold patient-to-patient at shops, perhaps the most significant ruling since voters approved the law in 2008.