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People v. Carloton: Can I Use Medical Marijuana in My Car in Public?

November 25, 2015 Medical Marijuana

The Court of Appeals in the case of People v. Carlton ruled the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act will not protect people who smoke in their car is in public.

What Happened in the Case

The Defendant was sighted smoking weed in his car. The car was in a parking lot of a casino. The Defendant was a registered medical marijuana patient. Marijuana was found in his vehicle after a search. There was no dispute there was marijuana and the marijuana was his.

The Law

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act provides immunity from prosecution for people registered to use marijuana. That use is protected so long as the use is carried out in accordance with the law. The law says that marijuana cannot be used in a public place.

The Arguments

The Defendant argued that his car was not a public place, therefore he should be allowed to use marijuana in his car without violating the law. The Prosecutor argued it doesn’t matter whether he was in a car because the car was in a public place – in this case a parking lot open to the public. The case revolved around the definition “public place.”

The Court’s Decision

As in so many cases, this case boiled down to the definition of a term. Specifically, the term here is “public place.” As in other cases, the Court looked to the dictionary for help. “Public place is  generally understood to be any place that is open to or may be used by the members of the community, or that is otherwise not restricted to the private use of a defined group of persons,” according to the dictionary.

A parking lot is obviously a public place. Therefore, the question more accurately would be whether a person ceases to be in a public place if the person is in their car.

The Court ruled that a person is still in a public place even if in their private vehicle. The Court focused on the language in the statute removing the immunity protections for medical marijuana users in “any public place,” and the plain understanding of that phrase as written. Specifically, the Court noted that being in a private place in an ultimately public place does not transform the nature of the overall public place.

Whether a place is “public” depends on whether the place at issue is generally open to the public – not whether the person smoking marijuana tried to conceal the smoking. The Court uses an analogy of a public restroom. A person who uses a public restroom is still in public once the stall door closes.

Takeaway from the Case?

Don’t smoke your medical marijuana in your car if in a public place. You will not receive the protection of the medical marijuana act. Smoke it at home.

Plus, smoking in your car opens the door to a driving under the influence investigation. Save yourself the headache and smoke up your medicine at home.

Contact ArborYpsi Law

Call Sam Bernstein at 734-883-9584 or e-mail at

Sam Bernstein is an Attorney in Ann Arbor focusing on Marijuana Law and Criminal Defense.

ArborYpsi Law is located at 4158 Washtenaw Ave., Ann Arbor, MI 48108.

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This case is captioned as People v. Carlton, 313 Mich. App. 339, 880 N.W.2d 803