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Mmj Advocates Say Schuette's On Slippery Dope Slope


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MMJ Advocates Say Schuette's On Slippery Dope Slope

 

Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE has been cracking down on medical marijuana users, most recently with an opinion stating police could keep pot seized from someone legally possessing it. But medical marijuana advocates say he could go farther.

 

"As Attorney General, he can issue opinions about different legal interpretation of the act, and all of those are going to rule as law of the land until they're overruled by a court," said Rick THOMPSON of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC).

 

He and Tim BECK, an author of the medical marijuana law of 2008, say there are more places he could go. For instance, radically interpreting the doctor patient relationship, cracking down on physicians who refer patients for marijuana, making it harder to renew a certification and going over the head of local authorities to prosecute dispensary operators.

 

But as far as what he can do to the voter-passed referendum, Beck said that his power is limited by law.

 

"He can't really gut it unless the courts allow him to. He is simply issuing a legal opinion that generally can be either accepted or not accepted by police authorities," said Beck.

 

An example of that was the effect of another of Schuette's pot stances, which concerned with a Court of Appeals ruling that dispensaries were illegal. The results of the ruling have been largely county-by-county, with some county prosecutors acting on Schuette's word and others choosing to ignore still-operating pot shops. But until his opinions are challenged in court, they could give law enforcement a place to hide.

 

"Now there are some police departments that are just going to say 'hey wow that's great, we're just going to take their marijuana, sue me buddy,'" said Beck.

 

Harder to overturn pot rules, though, would have to start in the Legislature, which is where Thompson thinks Schuette will be starting in 2012.

 

"This way he can move on getting these things taken care of without having to actually make any statements or take any actions that he can be held accountable for," said Thompson.

 

But marijuana seems to be the AG's biggest focus, according to the medical marijuana advocates. They said that of the five opinions Schuette has issued, three have been on marijuana.

 

In Thompson's opinion, that means Schuette's spent too much time on this issue.

 

"He will use every resource available to him to restrict patients and caregivers in Michigan," he said. "And he's spent more time being the campaign chairman for Mitt ROMNEY than he's spent trying to put rapists and murderers in prison."

 

Beck said that Romney's got a fan club in some law enforcement officials and social conservatives. But Beck said Schuette was on a "slippery slope" to losing his credibility because of his "obsession" with medical marijuana, especially when it comes to swaying the Legislature.

 

"In my opinion, he's more bark than he is bite. He does not control the Legislature," said Beck.

 

Schuette Spokesman John SELLEK said the job of Attorney General's office is to enforce the law and protect public safety, which is what they're doing in filing more than 100 charges in the new public corruption unit this year alone.

 

"We are working as a team with law enforcement and the medical community. And the courts have agreed with us," Sellek said.

 

The office recently charged a bad doctor who was selling marijuana certifications out of a hardware store without seeing a single patient. Schuette supported county prosecutors who went to court to say dispensaries were illegal, and the Court of Appeals agreed with us. The AG is also supporting a county prosecutor's fight to keep people from driving with marijuana in their system, which should be common sense, but isn't clear as the medical marijuana law was drafted, he said.

 

"The drafters of the act have admitted to intentionally drafting the law in a vague fashion," Sellek said. "As the Attorney General said, it has more holes than swiss cheese. And clearly, despite how it was sold to voters as a way to help very ill people, it is being exploited by some with far less than an honorable intent."

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