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Proposed state med pot rules rile users


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Proposed state med pot rules rile users

Gary Heinlein / Detroit News Lansing Bureau

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LANSING -- State officials are proposing overly restrictive rules that would undo the intent of compassionate medical marijuana law that voters approved in November, backers of the new measure claim.


At a hearing Monday on proposed rules to govern medical marijuana use, supporters especially objected to requirements that patients and caregivers keep inventories of the marijuana grown for medical use.


Some said a tentative rule against public use could mean patients would face prosecution for smoking pot on their front porches, or in their living rooms with the drapes open.


Others said proposed security requirements for medical marijuana would mean the state is putting tighter restrictions on pot than on more dangerous prescription drugs, such as the pain reliever OxyContin that patients routinely keep in their medicine cabinets.


"It seems to me you are attempting an end-run of what the people wanted and voted for," said Ken Shapiro of East Lansing, who uses marijuana for metastatic melanoma that, he said, has afflicted him for 31 years.


Shapiro said he has been through radiation, chemotherapy and more than 50 surgeries for the spreading cancer.


"Marijuana helped me get through it," he said. "It should be taken for granted that seriously ill people are not dealing drugs."


While the new medical marijuana law technically is in effect now, the state health department is drafting rules to govern its use. Department officials, who want to finalize the rules by April 4, held Monday's hearing to give voice to those who'd be affected.


The new law allows patients with cancer, HIV, AIDS, glaucoma and other diseases to use marijuana to relieve symptoms on a doctor's recommendation.


Under the proposed rules, those qualified to grow and use marijuana would have to register yearly and be issued registration cards that could be revoked for criminal use or sales. Registered medical producers could supply no more than five patients each, and possess no more than 12 mature plants and 2.5 ounces of marijuana per patient. The plants and packets of drug would have to be kept in enclosed, locked facilities.


A potential producer said the health department's proposed disclosure and paperwork requirements would create a paper trail that could expose him to federal prosecution. Under federal law, any marijuana use or sale remains a crime.


"I won't follow the rules as they are now; I'll just keep growing marijuana as I have been," said Tom Higgins of Bay City, who said he cultivates marijuana and uses it because he believes it has kept him from dying of hepatitis.


Karen O'Keefe, state policies director for the Washington, D.C.-based Marijuana Policy project, said 12 other medical marijuana states don't require restrictions like those proposed for Michigan.


Voters approved appropriate safeguards "without requiring self-incrimination or making life overly difficult for the seriously ill patients whom 63 percent of Michigan voters chose to allow to use medical marijuana without fearing arrest," she said.


Desmond Mitchell, a State Bureau of Health Professions policy analyst who conducted the hearing, said officials "will review everything and take a look at what revisions need to be made" in the proposed rules.


You can reach Gary Heinlein at (517)371-3660 or gheinlein@detnews.com

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