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Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law Doesn't Serve Anyone Well


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medical_marijuana.jpgAP File PhotoMany communities are dealing with how to handle medical marijuana.




There’s an old saw about the two things you don’t want to see made — legislation or sausage. But what about legislation voters themselves produce?


Michigan’s constitution gives the citizenry the authority to craft legislation, collect petitions on its behalf and place it before the Legislature for a vote. Lawmakers can approve it. Or they can vote it down or decline to take it up at all; in either case the proposed law goes on the ballot for voters to decide. As was the case with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act approved by voters nearly two-to-one in 2008.


How’s it working out?


The law, Oakland County District Judge Robert Turner said six months after passage, “is one of the worst pieces of legislation I have ever seen in my life.”


Voters may have thought the law was a common sense effort to provide another option for personal physicians in the long course of treatment for their very ill patients. Cancer patients struggling to maintain weight during chemo would be able to legally avail themselves of appetite-inducing marijuana. Chronic pain sufferers could obtain relief through a drug less potent or addictive than prescription opiates.


Whether the vagaries in the law were intentional or not, the law appears to have turned into something considerably broader.


The 61,756 Michigan residents who have applied as of Sept. 24 for a state-issued card certifying them as “qualified patients” under the act (32,859 applicants have received them) are probably happy either way. And pleased that in the wake of the law’s passage, marijuana commerce is flourishing.


One-stop shopping websites can direct those seeking “qualified patient” cards to licensed physicians able to professionally “opine” that marijuana will provide therapeutic benefits to patients suffering from a variety of ailments among them “severe and chronic pain.” Or to “state-of-the-art growing facilities for qualified individuals who would like to grow their own” strains of marijuana like the “Big Budda Cheese” advertised by the website M3KEY.com. Don’t know where to start? Go to potlocator.com. Or attend a marijuana cultivation “academy.”


In essence, a law drafted by marijuana legalization advocates in Washington would appear to allow any Michigan resident to smoke marijuana legally as long as they follow the procedure outlined in the law. Residents who procure a card “shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner” for possessing less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana or for growing 12 or fewer plants in a locked, secure “facility.”


Tell that to the cop who stops you for speeding and spots an ounce of “Lowlife Automatic AK47” in the cup holder. Or explain why it belongs to you and not your passenger, through the law says anyone in the “presence or vicinity” of the medical use of marijuana can’t be arrested either.


Michigan Appeals Court Judge Peter O’Connell, in an opinion last month, warned that regardless of what the law says, medical marijuana users are risking their liberty because so many elements of it are unclear or in conflict with other Michigan law.


David Leyton, Genesee County prosecutor and Democratic nominee for attorney general, said the “people have spoken, that’s first and foremost.” But he said the law “needs to be fully examined and we need to fill in the gaps so that ...everyone knows what their rights are under the law.”


Republican nominee Bill Schuette opposed the 2008 ballot issue and says a medical marijuana law that has “pot shops sprouting up everywhere” is merely the first step in the effort to legalize marijuana in Michigan.


The Legislature is the logical place to amend the law, but it hasn’t seriously taken up the issue in part because changing the law as approved by voters takes a supermajority, three-fourths vote.


So frustrated municipal officials will have little guidance in regulating the marijuana dispensaries cropping up in their communities that are neither authorized nor prohibited under the law. Police enforcement will be a priority in some jurisdictions, but not in others. The Michigan Supreme Court eventually will determine what the law does or doesn’t mean.


Citizen-initiated law may not be sausage. That doesn’t mean it’s any better.


E-mail Peter Luke: pluke@boothmichigan.com

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i, personally, love sausage


it may be as clear as mud (something that we've been saying since this law was enacted, this is nothing new), but left to the devices of the government, and imagine what we would have.


i must confess, though, i am unclear who worded this law. i feel it is a great start, as it pushed it through, but i feel we need the ability to edit the law, without putting it in the hands of the state to rewrite it for us. somethings need to be changed/re-worded, but at this point, if it were to be reworded, who would do the rewording? i think the state would like to reword it, also, but not to our wants, but with more restrictions and to make it more of pain for us and less of a help to us. if the state were to reword it now, all the gray areas would soon turn black and white, but not to our advantage. i feel we would lose a F TON of ground on this.

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