Medical marihuana remains a controversial issue in Michigan, despite nearly two-thirds of voters approving the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Since 2008, when the Act was approved, municipalities statewide have varied in their approach to medical marihuana, unsure of their powers to govern patients, growing operations, dispensaries and medicinal marihuana transfers.
While most prosecutors and law enforcement agencies have come to accept medical marihuana and its benefits, some have remained steadfast that all marihuana is illegal. This is an unfortunate effect of decades of anti-marihuana campaigns and legislation, which medical marihuana supporters are now fighting to counteract. That sentiment and feeling may still exist, but so does one simple fact – it is legal Michigan residents to possess medical marihuana, and those patients and caregivers should not be arrested for following the law. Registered patients are protected from arrest, prosecution or penalty, according to Section 333.26424 of the Act.
Linden City Attorney Charles McKone recommended in 2011 that police “continue arresting anyone possessing or smoking marihuana” and “it’s up to the individual to defend themselves.”
More recently, in 2013, McKone shied away from comments about Linden’s arrest first, ask questions later policy when questioned by the Tri-County Times, saying, instructing those calls simply be forwarded to him or the interim city manager.
This bit of harassment from local law enforcement must stop. Law-abiding patients possessing well below the state-approved amount of medical marihuana are forced to defend themselves in court for following the law. The Linden arrest policy is seemingly bent on circumventing Michigan’s medical marihuana law.
Recent cases in the Michigan Supreme Court, including an opinion on dispensaries recently, solidify medical marihuana in this state. With the highest court offering its opinion on specifics within the law, it defined, defended and protected medical marihuana in Michigan.
The Michigan Court of Appeals has already ruled policies like those in Linden do not trump the state’s medical marihuana laws. Last August, the court ruled on behalf of attorney and patient John Ter Beek, striking down the city of Wyoming’s ban on medical marihuana, calling it “void and unenforceable.”
Ironically, policies of intention and instruction of arresting anyone possessing medical marihuana, which exist in many communities statewide, opens up municipalities to potential litigation, should a patient feel compelled to seek remedies. Repeated and public policies of wrongful arrest is not only bad for the innocently arrested, but a community at large, with local officials attempting to overrule state law and ignore the will of the people.
As we move forward, medical marihuana is, and will be for the foreseeable future, legal in Michigan. What supporters and advocates can do is tell our stories and educate detractors. I welcome the opportunity to sit down with Mr. McKone, or any other official in the state, to discuss the benefits of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and the harmful effects to Michigan residents of policies such as those enacted in Linden.