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More Than 100,000 Michiganders Have Medical Marijuana Card

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Medical marijuana use has been legal in the state since 2008 when a majority of voters approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). Medical marijuana use has come back in the public spotlight as state legislators have proposed bills that may require drug testing from unemployment beneficiaries. Recently, a couple licensed to grow medical marijuana had their 6-month-old child taken away by the state for having plants in their house.

 Despite these hurdles, a significant amount of the state’s population is still interested in obtaining a medical marijuana card.

 According to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), 402,688 original and renewal applications have been submitted to the state since April 6, 2009. As of May, there are 128,688 active registered qualified patients. Of the applicants who have applied, 25,788 of them have been denied, mostly because of missing documentation.

 In 2012, the state of Michigan took in $9.8 million in fees associated with medical marijuana.

 In order to qualify for medical marijuana, a patient must receive approval from a physician. The state reports 1,928 prescribed medical marijuana last year however, a list of those individual doctors is not kept by the state. Patients must have a debilitating or chronic medical condition in order to qualify for medical marijuana, which can include cancer, glaucoma, severe and chronic pain, muscle spasms and other diseases that can lead to death.

 If approved, medical marijuana cardholders are allowed to possess 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and up to 12 plants in a stored, locked facility. The MMMA also allows for caregivers, who can legally grow marijuana for up to five patients and grow a maximum of 72 plants. Caregivers must be at least 21 years of age and have never been convicted of drug related charges.

 With 80 percent of applicants being approved for a medical card and numerous conditions qualifying patients for a card, some have questioned the legitimacy of issuing medical marijuana cards.

 Medical marijuana user and Linden resident Kelly Klocek told the Times in February that she has Atyplcail Trigeminal Neuralgia, a disorder that includes intense migraines and chronic aches. Klocek said the use of medical marijuana eliminated the need for her to take multiple prescription pills for pain. Klocek and other patients interviewed said that while some people did abuse having a medical marijuana card, they felt a majority of users had a legitimate reason to smoke marijuana.

 Michael Komorn, a Michigan lawyer who represents medical marijuana users, said that any right will have abusers. Komorn believes medical marijuana users in general face excess scrutiny and that the MMMA has yet to be fully recognized by law enforcement.

 “There’s very little change in the law enforcement community. Little, if any new training has taken place,” Komorn said. “People expected the law to have more protections, whether it is for growing or medical use.”

 Under federal law, marijuana is considered a controlled substance. Other states like Colorado and Washington have decriminalized marijuana use, however, federal authorities can still arrest and press charges to those in possession of medical marijuana. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2012 report on crime in the U.S., marijuana accounted for 48 percent of drug related arrests.



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