A licensed caregiver convicted of having too much medical marijuana in Kentwood feels vindicated after the Michigan Court of Appeals overturned her conviction and ordered that the case be dismissed, her lawyer said.
“We're ecstatic because we've been fighting this for five years,'' said attorney Mary Chartier, who's represented 49-year-old Alenna Marie Rocafort in a protracted legal battle that reached the state Supreme Court.
Rocafort was arrested in 2012 for having more pot than what's allowed under Michigan's 2008 Medical Marijuana Act, which allows caregivers to have up to 2.5 ounces per patient.
Although police seized 5.6 pounds of marijuana, the weight was artificially high because Rocafort harvested the pot four days earlier and it was still drying, her attorney argued.
In a 2 to 1 decision, the Court of Appeals this week vacated her conviction. The split decision follows an April ruling in a separate case in which a different Appeals Court panel said marijuana seized during a raid was 'drying,' rather than 'dried,' so the harvested weight shouldn't count against the grower.
The Michigan Supreme Court in September said that ruling should be applied in Rocafort's case.
“I'm glad Alenna never gave up on it,'' Chartier said. “She thought she should prevail and she did.''
The case stems from a Sept. 2012 raid at an unoccupied house in Kentwood where Rocafort grew medical marijuana. Rocafort was a registered patient and caregiver with five registered patients, providing medical marijuana to four of them.
Police found 34 marijuana plants during the Sept. 19 raid. She harvested marijuana four days earlier for hash oil, court records show.
An expert witness testified that it takes between 7 to 10 days to dry marijuana after harvest. The defense witness said he did not think the marijuana was adequately dried, and even dried marijuana contains approximately 10 percent moisture content, court records show.
Although the marijuana may not have been ideally dry, a Kent County judge nonetheless ruled it was “largely dried'' and therefore allowed the criminal case to move forward. A jury convicted Rocafort more than a year after the raid.
Rocafort in April, 2014 was sentenced to two years' probation for delivery/manufacture of marijuana and maintaining a drug house. She was given an early discharge from probation in April, 2015.
In vacating Rocafort's conviction this week, justices William B. Murphy and Cynthia Diane Stephens noted that the marijuana was still in the process of drying when it was seized by police.
“It was only largely dried and thus did not constitute 'usable' marijuana,'' Murphy and Stephens wrote. “Given that all of the charges against defendant were based on marijuana that was still in the process of being dried, defendant was entitled to immunity'' under Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act.
In a six-page dissent, Judge Jane E. Markey said the lower court decision should stand because the marijuana seized still exceeded what was allowed.
The case was sent back to Kent County Circuit Court to be dismissed.
Chartier, the defense attorney, said her client had no prior criminal record and has been living with a felony conviction tied to her name.
“She completed probation, paid her fines and costs and had been living as a felon,'' Chartier said of Rocafort, 49, who is still living in western Michigan. “She's been vindicated.''