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Drug war ceasefire holds for Mich. medical marijuana users

Advocates discuss grow techniques at public meetings; charges are dropped against medicinal marijuana users

By Eartha Jane Melzer 7/7/09 7:50 AM Digg Tweet


(Creative Commons photo by Laughing Squid via Flickr)


(Creative Commons photo by Laughing Squid via Flickr)

TRAVERSE CITY — In the three months since medical use and cultivation of marijuana was made legal in the state of Michigan, around 2,000 patients have registered with the state, hundreds of others have signed up to grow and provide marijuana for them and the War on Drugs seems to be entering a mellower phase. Marijuana advocates and public officials are talking about how to build trust and cooperate as they work together to implement the state’s medical marijuana law approved by wide margins by Michigan voters in last fall’s election.


The change in tone is evident in the public meetings of support groups for medical marijuana users and caregivers that are taking place in at least 23 communities around the state.


At a Compassion Club meeting held in a bookstore in downtown Traverse City last month, a dozen people passed around a book about how to make the traditional marijuana-based drug hashish.


One medical marijuana user who grows for his own use explained that concentrating marijuana into hashish or hash oil can be a strategy for complying with the state requirement that medical marijuana users possess no more than 2.5 ounces of “useable product” at any given time. Those who cultivate marijuana outside during Northern Michigan’s short growing season run the risk of possessing more than the legal limit if the their entire allowed 12 plant crop becomes “useable” all at once, he said. Plants that are well nourished and carefully tended have been known to reach heights of 4 feet when grown outside in large tubs, another pointed out.


The multigenerational group of men and women openly shared tips about cultivation techniques and discussed concerns about gray areas in the current law such as what type of fence is appropriate for securing an outdoor plot of marijuana and whether it is legal for patients to trade marijuana between themselves, a practice that could help them identify strains of the plant best suited to particular health issues.


But there were some concerns of possible targeting by law enforcement.


One man at the Traverse City gathering who said he was using marijuana to treat pain from damaged knees but had not managed to register with the state said that he fears that police will pursue him for using marijuana even though he’s doing it for medical reasons.


“No one should be afraid to go without pain,” he said.


A woman who said that she is registered to grow marijuana for her husband, expressed concern about an odd encounter involving an uninvited guest at their remote rural home. She wondered whether undercover drug enforcement officers were checking up on medicinal marijuana users.


Local authorities contacted by phone after the meeting said that they are unaware of any operations targeting of medical marijuana users.


“Based my experienced on what has happened in Grand Traverse County, I think their fear is unwarranted,“ said Lt. James MacKinnon, spokesman for the Grand Traverse County Police Department.


The county’s prosecutor, Alan Schneider, seemed to agree.


“None of the police agencies in our county have requested charges related to medical marijuana,” Schneider said.


In fact, he said, “I think I had a case where I offered to dismiss if the person simply got their certification even though they had possessed the marijuana prior to the enactment of the law — if it’s legitimate use we have no interest in prosecuting it.”


Schneider is not alone in dismissing charges against those charges while using marijuana as medicine.





In an Oakland County case last month, District Court Judge Robert Turner dismissed felony charges against a Madison Heights couple that had been charged with growing marijuana in their home following a raid that took place days before the new medical marijuana law took effect.


Attorneys for Torey Clark and Bob Redden presented an affirmative defense in which the doctor who had treated them at the Hemp and Cannabis Foundation Clinic in Southfield, Dr. Eric Eisenbud, testified that couple was using marijuana to treat health problems and had become certified to use medical marijuana since the bust.


Although the judge in that case reportedly called the state’s medical marijuana law “worst piece of legislation he has ever seen in his life“, and prosecutors said they planned to appeal, the dismissal of the case, which could have resulted in up to 14 years in prison for the couple, was seen by medical marijuana advocates as an important victory.

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