Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Michigan medical marihuana law - a Q&A

Q: What areas of law does the Michigan medical marihuana act cover?
A: This act (referred to as the MMMA) ensures that someone who qualifies as a registered user or caregiver (what is a qualifying condition, see below) can't be arrested, or subjected to other prosecution, simply because they are registered. It also ensures that those registered users/ caregivers can't lose privileges, such as work-related licenses.

Q: Can a registered user or caregiver also "deal" marihuana?
No. The MMMA only provides protection against prosecution for caregivers/users when they are using it for medicinal purposes. That means if a registered user/caregiver does sell to someone, they are then charged with a felony of up to 2 years + $2,000 fine possible, in addition to other criminal penalties for distribution of marihuana. For example, the prosecuting attorney can also charge use, possession, possession with intent to distribute, and so on, which all have separate possible penalties, as well as the penalties under this act.

Q: OK then, so this means that it's supposed to be a closed system, right?
A: Yes. The caregivers and registered users are supposed to keep the M to themselves, use it for medicinal purposes, and not sell to others, period. 

Q: What if I am over at my friend's house - who's an MMMA registered user. Can I get in trouble for that?
A: No. As long as it's being used medicinally, then being in the vicinity of medical use won't get you in trouble with the law, or charged with a crime.

Q: My friend has joint custody of his kids, and he's an MMMA registered user. He worries that his ex will try to use this against him in court. Is that something he should be concerned about? Will he lose custody of his kids?
A: No. Registered MMMA use can't be the basis for denying custody or visitation, unless there is other behavior that creates danger to the kids.

Q: What types of medical condition qualify someone? 

A: The MMMA has a list here of conditions, they include: cancer, glaucoma, positive status for human immunodeficiency virus, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail patella, or the treatment of these conditions,  severe nausea; seizures, including but not limited to those characteristic of epilepsy; or severe and persistent muscle spasms, including but not limited to those characteristic of multiple sclerosis. Other conditions can be approved as necessary, through legislative approval.

Q: Can a drug dealer become a caregiver? 
A: Maybe not. A caregiver has to be at least 21 years old not been convicted of any felony within the past 10 years and has never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs or a felony that is an assaultive crime.

Q: How do I apply to become a registered user or caregiver?
A: It's described in detail at the Michigan department of regulatory affairs website.

Have more questions? post them on the blog, or contact me directly: ballastnancyl@gmail.com

Petition for marijuana legalization to be placed on Michigan ballot? Michigan canvassers board to review petition

The Michigan Cannabis Coalition, which has been described as "a loosely formed group of business and political folks," wants to legalize and tax recreational marijuana, devoting any proceeds to education, public safety and public health.

It's one of three marijuana legalization groups eyeing the 2016 ballot, and its proposal is unique in that it would give state lawmakers a prominent role in the legalization process.

Article here. 

Detroit -area attorney charged with mortgage fraud scheme

Steven Barry Ruza, 52, of Orchard Lake and his company, Home Legal Group, promised upwards of 114 victims they could obtain mortgage modifications and save their homes from foreclosure but then did nothing, or very little, to obtain mortgage modifications for the victims, Schuette's office said. They did, however, collect hundreds of thousands in fees.

 Article here. 

School standardized testing: Should it be required by law?

Illinois now allows parents to choose that a student can "opt out" of standardized testing. 

So this week, the aba journal would like to ask you: Should school standardized testing be required by law? Or should individual districts, schools or students decide whether or not to participate?
Answer in the comments.

Do you write fiction - that's legally themed? Enter this contest.

The lawyerist's short-fiction contest is open to all writers. If you have a story to tell (in 5,000 words or less), we want to read it! Submissions are due on June 1st, and the top two entries will receive cash awards and be published right here on Lawyerist.

Submission Guidelines

Entries must be original works of fiction of no more than 5,000 words that feature a lawyer as a prominent character. Entries must be submitted by email to email@lawyerist.com no later than June 1, 2015.

Monday, May 18, 2015

Child Support, Modifications and Arrears: a family law Q &A primer

Q: I've been making my child support payments, but sometimes I can't pay the monthly amount due. What happens now?
A: That amount you didn't or can't pay will become an arrearage.

First of all, the obligation to support a child is with both parents. The Michigan Child Support Formula considers the amount of time each parent has with the minor child(ren), the income of the parties, and other factors when calculating support owed. Typically, the custodial parent will be paid support, and the non-custodial parent will be the payor of support, but this isn't always the case, since it depends on income, number of children, and other factors.

Support will typically be ordered during the pendency of a divorce or custody case (before judgment is entered), or if either parent is receiving state assistance. After the judgment is entered, an adjustment may be made to the support amount, and a new UCSO (uniform child support order) will be issued.

Q: What if I think the amount ordered should be different? I can't pay what I currently owe. 
A: You can request a modification of the support amount through Friend of the Court, or through an attorney.

Either party - the parent who pays, or the parent who receives support  - can request modification, if that parent can show a change in circumstances.

Statutes provide a low threshold for modification, based on circumstances of the parents or as the benefit of the children require,[1] upon proper application to the court and due notice to the opposite party,[2] and for proper cause shown or change in circumstances.[3]

A change in circumstance is a fact-based question. It could be the parent has changed jobs, has a medical concern and can't work, and so on. Also, the Friend of the Court can request a modification of the support amount.  

A parent who's income changes should notify Friend of the Court of this change, whether requesting a modification or not. 

Otherwise, if no parties request a  modification, a support review will be done, typically every three years. 

Q: I requested a modification and the Court agreed with me. What's next? Will this take care of the arrears I owe? 

A: The modification has to be made into an order. Your attorney can prepare that, or Friend of the Court will send you a copy eventually if no attorneys are involved. 

But typically modifications do not address arrears - they only modify the amount of support going forward.  (This is also referred to as "no retroactive modification of support," see MCL 552.603 (2)) 

If the amount of arrears is owed to the other parent, it's possible that parent can forgive the amount of arrears owed. Talk to your attorney about that. 

Q: The amount of arrears I owe is really high. Is there anything I can do about that?
A: Maybe. The Friend of the Court may let you ask for a payment plan on your arrears amount.  Talk to your attorney about discharge of the amount you owe. Again, the parent receuving support has to consent to this as well. 

Q: Can I go to jail for not paying the support amount?

Friend of the Court can enforce support orders through bench warrants, license restrictions (including recreational licenses), withholding tax refunds, among other means. Friend of Court offices can request through "show cause" hearings that the payor make payments, and explain why payments haven't been made, or go to jail.

In addition, the possibility of felony child support non-payment exists.That can happen when the amount owed is in excess of $20,000 (MCL 750.165). At that point, a warrant can issue to arrest the payor of support. Felony child support violations can carry a penalty of 4 year's imprisonment. No laughing matter. 

[1] MCL 552.17 (1): Divorce, separate maintenance, annulment.
[2] MCL 552.45:  Family Support Act.
[3] MCL 722.27 (1) (c): Child Custody Act.

Monday, May 11, 2015