UrbanFarmer Posted May 11, 2010 Report Share Posted May 11, 2010 Fired Up: Debate Intensifies About The Use Of Medical Marijuana Joe started taking prescription drugs in the 1970s after he hurt his back in the military. As the pain got worse, his prescriptions got stronger. Before he knew it, he was addicted. Joe, 58, of Dryden battled the addiction into the 1980s. Eventually, he kicked the habit, which left him with shooting pain and no way to manage it. Today, he has a remedy -- medical marijuana. "I think my wife likes me a little better," he said, laughing. "When you're in pain, you don't expect to be that nasty, but it comes out as a bite instead of a bark." Michigan voters legalized marijuana for medicinal use in November 2008. A local debate about the law has heated up in the past few months as municipalities wrangle with what the state law means and how far it allows people to go. For many, it remains a touchy subject. Several local people who have received state approval to use marijuana declined to speak with the Times Herald, even on the condition of anonymity. Several doctors also opted out of discussing the issue. Joe, speaking on condition of anonymity, understands the reluctance. There is a negative stigma attached to pot, he said, and the way the state law is written is partially to blame. " ... You have to be an attorney just to read the law," he said. Plus, "I think (there's) a lack of understanding of what you can do with marijuana medicinally. (People) just think it's a recreational drug." Something to Agree On People on both sides of the medical marijuana debate are passionate. Many proponents consider smoking pot a lifeline. Some opponents consider it a gateway to problems and a public safety risk. St. Clair County Sheriff Tim Donnellon is among those concerned about the implications. "My job is to enforce (laws about) the use of illegal drugs; this has opened up Pandora's box," Donnellon said. Both sides agree on one thing -- the state's law is vague. That presents challenges to everyone. People who receive a medical marijuana card from the state can possess up to 21/2 ounces of pot and can grow up to 12 plants at a time. Registered caregivers, who must be licensed through the state, can have up to five patients and can grow up to 12 plants per patient. The caregivers can be paid for helping patients, but the payment cannot include the cost of the marijuana. Growing it themselves or getting it through licensed caregivers are the only ways patients legally can get marijuana. Figuring it out What the law doesn't spell out poses the biggest problems for patients, caregivers and, ultimately, municipal leaders left sorting out ordinances. The law doesn't say how patients and caregivers can get marijuana plants to grow, and it is silent on compassion centers -- which are at the heart of the debate in many places, including St. Clair County. Patients and caregivers consider the centers places for people to socialize and get support from others in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program. Some of the centers have rooms where people can use marijuana; others basically are fellowship halls. Opponents of the centers don't like the idea that people could use or buy marijuana there and argue they could become a breeding ground for illegal activity. The state's medical marijuana law outlines a few places where people can't use the drug but doesn't go into detail about where use is permitted. A Bit of Compassion St. Clair County's medical marijuana debate started when a Kimball Township couple proposed opening a compassion center. Several compassion centers have popped up throughout the state, including in Dryden, Oak Park and Benton Harbor. No one seems to know, including state officials, if the centers even are permitted under the law -- and if they are, what people can do there. Kimball Township Supervisor Rob Usakowski said those were some of the primary concerns when Debra and Jim Amsdill approached officials in March about opening the Blue Water Compassion Center. "I think our biggest issue was people would be medicating at the facility and then leaving that facility," Usakowski said, noting the proposed site was near Landmark Academy, a charter school. State law prohibits someone from driving under the influence of medical marijuana, but it doesn't address using it within 1,000 feet of the drug-free zone around a school. The township in April passed a six-month moratorium on compassion centers. Regardless, the Amsdills opened the doors to the center in the Sawmill Commons shopping center, 4731 Lapeer Road, about two months ago. It does not have a room where people can use marijuana, but the Amsdills plan to create one soon. The couple has been ticketed for violating the township's moratorium, Usakowski said. The ticket carries a fine, and township officials expected to discuss what further action may be taken at their next meeting, Usakowski said. The Amsdills said they might file a civil suit claiming the township is violating their right to operate the center. In the meantime, the township's planning commission is working to develop a zoning ordinance for such centers. Usakowski also has talked to state legislators with hopes the law's shortcomings can be addressed. Taking Action As the situation unfolds in Kimball Township, other municipalities are scrambling to get ahead of potential problems. The Marysville City Council approved a resolution in April that prevents marijuana from being distributed in the city. The resolution will remain in place indefinitely while the issue is researched, officials have said. Fort Gratiot Supervisor Doug Hannan said officials there are planning to adopt a moratorium on compassion centers "just as fast as we can." "I feel (the law is) poorly written, and it just needs more definite parameters for it so we can govern accordingly," Hannan said. "Everyone's just guessing right now on what to do." Hannan doesn't think users need gathering spots, which he said could be breeding grounds for illegal activity. "Our feeling is anything that is against the law federally, we don't want," he said. Officials in St. Clair are taking the federal approach. City Superintendent Scott Adkins said there were three options: do nothing, regulate where compassion centers can open, or pass a resolution prohibiting any business that violates federal law. The City Council is considering the third option and is expected to vote May 17. Marijuana is illegal under the federal controlled substances act, and the state law does not protect patients or caregivers if the federal government decides to take action. The U.S. attorney general in October directed federal prosecutors to back off medical marijuana cases. There also are concerns that the state's list of registered users is not a public database, Donnellon said. He said officers could spend months investigating a drug house, get a search warrant and then find out the homeowner was permitted to grow marijuana. Adkins agreed that is in issue. "There are some holes in the law that really need to be looked at again," he said. The Port Huron City Council on Monday will consider a resolution prohibiting businesses that dispense marijuana. "... I just want to make sure we do what is required of us and nothing more," City Manager Bruce Brown said. Donnellon is supportive of the municipal efforts. "I think the municipalities are going to get out in front of it to try to limit their exposure to it, and I think it's a good move," he said. "I think (the law) needs to be restructured so it can fit the need for public safety as well as those who legitimately need it." In Limbo The uncertainty about what's legal and what's not is scary for users, Joe, the Dryden man, said. That's what makes compassion centers so useful. He frequents one in Dryden where he has been able to connect with other patients and caregivers. The network has helped him learn more about the law and how to grow marijuana. "It was really scary getting your (registered user) card (from the state) at first and not knowing anything other than reading the law," he said. "A lot of answers came from" visiting the center. Eric Cherry, a registered caregiver who lives in St. Clair County, agreed the law's gray areas make things difficult on patients. He has four medical marijuana patients for whom he grows plants. His patients declined to be interviewed by the Times Herald, but Cherry said they have conditions including multiple sclerosis. He became a caregiver after watching a family member who had cancer use marijuana for some relief. Caregivers must be at least 21 years old and may not have a felony record. "I got into this because I wanted to help people, and I wanted to do it legally," he said. Cherry said his services keep patients from buying marijuana illegally on the street. He stresses he doesn't sell to his patients; instead, they pay him to grow and harvest the plants. The bill boils down to between $200 and $600 an ounce. Some strains of marijuana are more expensive to grow than others. Cherry said the amount he bills patients covers his labor and supplies. State law allows for a caregiver to receive "reasonable compensation" for services provided. Cherry said his patients are what he calls the average users -- older than 30 and most have professional careers. "They're just trying to find a way to stay alive." [sidebar] AT A GLANCE MEDICAL MARIJUANA People must register to become patients of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program through the Michigan Department of Community Health. Only certain medical conditions are eligible, including cancer, glaucoma, Crohn's disease or medical conditions or treatments that cause issues such as chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures or wasting syndrome. A physician must state in writing that a patient has a qualifying condition and that medical marijuana could help. The state contacts physicians to verify information. Patients must have a "physician certification" upon renewing their certification card each year. Only medical doctors and doctors of osteopathic medicine can sign a physician certification. Physician certifications are not prescriptions. Pharmacies are not licensed to dispense medical marijuana. It must be obtained through a caregiver licensed through the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program. There is no place to buy marijuana legally. Registered caregivers can grow up to 12 marijuana plants for up to five patients. The caregivers must be 21 years old and must receive state certification, a process that includes a background check. A caregiver may receive "reasonable compensation" for services provided. Registered patients are permitted to consume medical marijuana on their own property or elsewhere. The law prohibits people from: doing anything under the influence that would constitute negligence or professional malpractice; possessing or using marijuana on a school bus, at a school and in a correctional facility; driving under the influence; and smoking marijuana on public transportation or in a public place. The state does not supply seeds or starter plants. The state does not refer patients to physicians or caregivers. The state has received 27,883 original and renewal applications since April 6, 2009. 14,398 patient registrations have been issued, and 6,274 caregiver registrations have been issued. 4,072 applications have been denied -- most due to incomplete application or missing documentation. For more information, visit www.michigan.gov/mdch, click on "Heath Systems & Health Profession Licensing" then on the link for the state's marijuana program. http://www.thetimesh...AID=20105090311 Newshawk: Medical Marijuana www.drugwarfacts.org/cms/node/54 Pubdate: Sun, 9 May 2010 Source: Times Herald, The (Port Huron, MI) Copyright: 2010 The Times Herald Contact: http://www.thetimesh.../contactus.html Website: http://www.thetimesherald.com/ Details: http://www.mapinc.org/media/2570 Author: Liz Shepard, Times Herald Referenced: Michigan's law http://drugsense.org/url/8mvr7sW8 Referenced: Michigan Medical Marihuana Program http://drugsense.org/url/nDFeNDPs Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.or...dical+marijuana Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.) Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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