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Michigan court: If it has roots and leaves, it’s a plant

Marijuana plants
Flickr user A7nubis
The court said the presence of roots -- even teeny, tiny ones -- means it's a plant.

If it has roots and leaves, in Michigan, it’s a plant. That’s the legal definition now that the Michigan Court of Appeals has made a ruling in a medical marijuana case.


Lorenzo Ventura was challenging charges that he exceeded the number of plants he was legally allowed under Michigan’s medical marijuana law. He was convicted and sentenced to two years of probation and 120 hours of community service.


The law adopted eight years by voters ago does not provide a definition. The dictionary did not offer any guidance in this instance.


The opinion by Judge David Sawyer said that left the question open to interpretation by the court:


“Thus, we are merely back to where we started: were these clones still just leaves or had they progressed to the point that they were suitable for planting?”


Ventura said cuttings from mature plants that had not yet fully developed were, basically, leaves -- not yet plants on their own.


The appeals court noted the cuttings were in separate containers from the host plants, and had sprouted tiny, hair-like roots. And it followed rulings in other state and federal courts that if someone could easily see a root system, even a tiny one, it’s a plant.  

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987.
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