Simple Rules for Cannabis Possession in Michigan

The decriminalization of cannabis possession in Michigan, first for medical use and more recently for recreational purposes, has been a big adjustment for law enforcement.  

What was once a single, bright-line rule now seems a complex, multi-statute and administrative rule analysis to be navigated as officers respond to odor/nuisance complaints, encounter “high” drivers, or try to decide what to do when their canine unit –trained for cannabis in addition to other drugs – “hits” on a residence or vehicle.  

Officers are seeking guidance from municipal attorneys, but with limited legal precedent, a patchwork system of laws, and ever-changing regulations, many times the advice is nothing more than guesswork. Many municipalities are simply throwing up their hands and putting the brakes on any cannabis businesses or any type of enforcement until the law is more definitive.  

Cannabis users are, likewise, being challenged to comply with these complex laws, at the risk of losing their personal freedom if they’re wrong. All of the new laws and rules are leading both law enforcement agents and cannabis users to ask, “So, what’s legal?” 

Fortunately, there are still some fairly simple "dos” and “don’ts” with regard to cannabis possession. Under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, a person 21 years of age or older may possess or transport 2.5 ounces or less of cannabis, provided that not more than 15 grams are in the form of concentrate.  

A  person 21 years of age or older can have a total of 10 ounces at home, but more than 2.5 ounces must be stored in a locked container or area. Twelve plants are also allowed per residence, and any cannabis produced by those plants is permitted for personal use. 

Having cannabis in these amounts: 

  • Is not illegal (no arrest/prosecution)
  • Is not grounds for seizure/forfeiture
  • Is not grounds for a search 

However, cannabis possessors can be arrested if they are any one of the following:

  • They are under 21 years old
  • Carrying more than allowed
  • Selling to minors
  • Operating under the influence
  • Consuming in public place
  • Smoking where prohibited by the property owner, occupant or manager
  • Consuming while operating motor vehicle, snowmobile, ORV, boat, etc.
  • Smoking in the passenger area of a vehicle on a public way (other types of consumption are arguably permitted by passenger, so long as they are nonpublic)
  • Cultivating plants if visible from public place (without optical aids)
  • Cultivating plants outside in an unlocked area
  • On school grounds

In the face of the evolving legal landscape, there are still bright line rules to cannabis possession that can serve to guide the conduct of cannabis users and law enforcement officers alike.

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