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'Hysteria over nothing'? Controversial Michigan medical marijuana law burning at both ends
'Hysteria over nothing'? Controversial Michigan medical marijuana law burning at both ends
by Jared Field | The Clio Messenger
Friday March 06, 2009, 12:38 PM

Jared Field | The Clio Messenger

Clio Police Chief James McLellan spoke to the Clio Commission on Monday night for 15 minutes on the possible fallout coming to law enforcement after Michigan voters passed a law legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes in November. On April 4, doctors statewide will be able to recommend the drug to certain patients struggling with various debilitating ailments.

CLIO, Michigan -- April 4 is D-day, the day dope for medicinal purposes becomes a reality in Michigan.

In November, voters passed a ballot proposal, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, that makes the medicinal use of the drug legal for qualifying patients. The measure officially became law on Dec. 4, but the state is not accepting applications for registry cards until April 4.

Under the new law, patients that have been recommended to use the drug to alleviate pain and have successfully registered through the state will be allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Further, patients will be allowed to grow, or have grown for them, up to 12 plants in a locked and enclosed facility.

Police Chief James McLellan schooled the Clio Commission Monday night on what the new law could mean for law enforcement in the city.

"I think it's bad law," said McLellan, who talked at length about the noxious affects marijuana dispensaries have had on communities. "I think the people who crafted this law were very cunning. In my experience, dispensing drugs has always been a profit-motivated industry, and I think it's just going to grow under this law."

Clio city attorney Otis Stout echoed McLellan's sentiments.

"It seems like a license to allow for the manufacturing of marijuana, quite honestly," he said.

Bruce Mirken, director of communication at the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington D.C., a major supporter of the Michigan Marijuana Act believes the controversy is much ado about nothing,

"(The act) allows the growing of marijuana in very specific, narrowly-defined circumstances for seriously ill patients with their doctor's permission," said Mirken, who admitted that the law was imperfect but tolerable in the absence of a federally regulated system. "I'm not sure what they are so worried about. It's not like Michigan is reinventing the wheel."

"I think we should be proactive here in Clio," said McLellan, who alerted the
Commission to a possible solution aimed at curbing the growth of dispensaries being attempted in several municipalities from Torrance, California to Coldwater, Michigan.

They are invoking the supreme law of the land to zone out marijuana dispensaries by mandating compliance to both state and federal drug laws.

Mirken believes that the California example, where things have fallen apart, is used as a scare tactic and that medical marijuana laws in states like Montana and Rhode Island more closely mirror Michigan's new law.

"The California example is entirely irrelevant," he said. "Their law ran half a page. Michigan has many more rules and regulations. They aren't fighting the last war, they're fighting five wars ago. If you want to look at something that is relevant, look at the statutes that are similar and they're haven't been problems."

Even still, with the support of the Clio Commission, look for the city of Clio enact a business ordinance, following the lead of the aforementioned cities, in the near future that would zig-zag around the state law and enforce compliance to federal drug laws. This action would usurp the Michigan law -- possessing pot, after all, is still illegal in the United States -- and prevent the future operation of dispensaries in the city.

"I think we will move forward with (an ordinance)," said City Administrator Jack Abernathy, who has already made plans to have something to put before the commission March 16. "I think we need to be proactive here just in case something comes along, to make sure that we are covered."

Mirken, however, is certain nothing will come along and that the new law will be tested and refined like any other.

"This is hysteria over nothing," he said. "It's amazing the excuses people are finding to make what is a workable, well-tested system seem like the end of the world. They need to join the 21st century."
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