Schuette defends Cass County marijuana conviction

LANSING, MI--Attorney General Bill Schuette announced his office has filed a brief on behalf of the Cass County prosecutor's office in the medical marijuana case of People v Sylvester Vanderbutts. Vanderbutts, 53, of Howard Township, was successfully prosecuted by Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz at a jury trial in April 2010 for possessing more than 40 marijuana plants and nearly one pound of marijuana, in violation of the limits set for registered medical marijuana patients under Michigan's Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA).

The case began in September 2009 when the Michigan State Police Southwest Enforcement Team executed a search warrant on Vanderbutts' Howard Township property and discovered the cache of marijuana. While Vanderbutts had qualified for a medical marijuana card from the Michigan Department of Community Health (MDCH), he was charged criminally by Cass County because he possessed more than the permitted 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 by MDCH under the MMA.

At the trial, Vanderbutts claimed the MMMA gives patients a defense even if they exceed the 2.5 ounce/12 plant limit as long as they do not exceed an amount reasonably necessary for their own use. However, the Cass County jury rejected that defense and found Vanderbutts guilty of Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Deliver, Manufacture of Marijuana, Maintaining a Drug House, and Possession of Marijuana.

Vanderbutts later filed an appeal of his conviction with the Michigan Court of Appeals. Because the Attorney General's Appellate Division handles criminal appeals from felony convictions for Michigan counties with a population of 75,000 or less, 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,'' said Schuette. ''We will continue to join county prosecutors to ensure the health and safety of the general public is protected.''

''Cass County welcomes the partnership of Attorney General Schuette regarding this important felony drug conviction,'' said Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz. ''We look forward to a just decision by the Court of Appeals.''

Copyright © 2011 State of Michigan

Published: Mon, May 9, 2011