marijuana

Organizers of a campaign hope you notice more $2 bills in circulation.
U.S. Government / Wikipedia

  Last Wednesday, medical marijuana groups started a campaign that they hope will shed light on the economic impact of the marijuana industry.

They want supporters of medical marijuana and cannabis legalization to spend at least one $2 for every cash purchase.

Organizers hope that placing more $2 bills in circulation will show the economic impact of medical marijuana.

user r0bz / Flickr

Blacks are 3.3 times more likely than whites to be arrested for marijuana possession in Michigan, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The study shows Michigan’s racial discrepancy is close to the national average, despite the fact that blacks and whites use marijuana at roughly equal rates.

user PabloEvans / Flickr

This week, police in Grand Rapids began a pilot program to treat marijuana possession as a civil infraction. This comes six months after voters approved an amendment to decriminalize pot.

In Michigan, if you've got an aching back or live in Grand Rapids or Ann Arbor, there’s less reason to feel like marijuana will get you into trouble.

For better or worse, pot is gaining acceptance. Our state is one of 20 in the U.S. where marijuana is either OK for medical use or decriminalized. In Washington state and Colorado, recreational use is legal. Increasingly, there are American communities like Grand Rapids where voters don’t want to spend time and money prosecuting offenders caught with a bag of weed.

courtesy of Leni Sinclair

It starts this week in Grand Rapids.

As of May 1st, 2013, if you celebrate 4:20, you’re less likely to get jail time.

Instead, you’re subject to a $25 fine for your first offense ($50 for your second, and $100 for three or more).

WKZO reports Grand Rapids police have issued tickets already:

The first tickets were issued Wednesday when the voter-approved ordinance took effect.  The first one went to a 28-year-old man from the northwest side of Grand Rapids, who was cited around 3 a.m. Wednesday.

The marijuana law in Grand Rapids mirrors the one in Ann Arbor.

The only difference is “selling marijuana” is not listed as a potential civil infraction in Grand Rapids as it is in Ann Arbor (organizers felt Grand Rapids voters wouldn’t be THAT lax).

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Nearly six months after Grand Rapids voters passed a charter amendment to decriminalize marijuana, the city is implementing the change this week. You can read the rules here.

The delay comes in part because the Kent County prosecutor sued the city when it tried to implement the change in December.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Grand Rapids flood 3-4 inches away from disaster

"A National Weather Service water expert says Grand Rapids was 3 to 4 inches of rain short of a disastrous breaching of its flood walls when the Grand River rose to record levels after heavy spring rains. The flooding forced the evacuation of an estimated 1,700 people in the Grand Rapids area and began easing after a forecast heavy rain on April 19 failed to materialize," the Associated Press reports.

Proposed legislation would lessen penalties for marijuana possession

"Legislation pending in the Michigan House would lessen penalties for people who are caught with small amounts of marijuana. The measure makes possession of one ounce of marijuana a civil infraction, rather than a misdemeanor," the Associated Press reports.

Pelosi says Detroit doesn't need an emergency manager

"Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi took a swipe at the appointment of Detroit's emergency manager last night during a speech in Detroit. The House Democratic Leader said there doesn't need to be anyone else 'running the city of Detroit,'" the Associated Press reports.

User: Brother O'Mara / flickr

Bill to decriminalize marijuana introduced in state Legislature

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) has introduced a bill in the state Legislature that would make possession of one ounce or less of marijuana a civil infraction rather than a misdemeanor.

"Irwin says state and local governments spend about 326-million dollars per year enforcing current marijuana laws. Republican Representative Mike Shirkey is a co-sponsor of the bill, and Irwin says it has bi-partisan support," according to Michigan Radio's Joseph Lichterman.

Legislation to tie welfare benefits to school attendance approved by House

A bill that would take away the welfare benefits from parents whose children miss too much school is on its way to the floor of the state House. The bill would take an existing Michigan Department of Health and Human Services policy and make it state law. Republican Representative Al Pscholka law says it is an effective way to keep kids in school, but opponents argue the bill doesn't provide enough safeguards to ensure low-income families are treated fairly.

State superintendent Mike Flanagan to take over secret education work group

"Governor Rick Snyder has asked the state’s education chief to take over a controversial project that’s looking for ways to reduce school costs. The new project will be narrower in scope than one handled by a controversial group that met in secret and included members of the governor’s administration. Snyder says he wants the new group to consider ways to use technology to reduce school costs," Rick Pluta reports.

On today's show: We've been alloped by wet weather. We get an update from West Michigan on the cleanup of the flooded Grand River.

And, we find out just what's behind a new ranking that says Grand Rapids is one of the tops places in the nation to find a job.

Later in the hour, on this 250th anniversary of his historic council of tribes, we learn just who Chief Pontiac was. We talk with his great, great, great, great grandson.

First on today's show, Michigan State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) formally announced legislation today that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Just what would House Bill 4623 mean for Michigan? Representative Jeff Irwin explains.

user Laughing Squid / Creative Commons

State Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) formally announced legislation today that would decriminalize the possession of small amounts of marijuana.

Under House Bill 4623, being caught possessing less than one ounce of marijuana would result in a civil infraction with a fine, but not jail time.

Currently, Michigan's law classifies marijuana possession as a misdemeanor with the possibility of a heavy fine and jail time.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids and a group behind the decriminalization of marijuana there are at odds over how to enforce the charter amendment voters passed in November.

In a recent court filing, the city argues police should have discretion, if not the duty, to turn over marijuana charges to the state. That way, offenders would be charged with a crime, not a civil infraction.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids is waiting before it implements a charter amendment that decriminalizes marijuana possession. Voters passed the initiative last November.

But the Kent County prosecutor is suing the city to prevent it from taking effect. The prosecutor argues it’s against state and federal laws for Grand Rapids police officers to issue only a civil infraction for marijuana possession. It would be sort of like a parking ticket. Ann Arbor has had similar rules for decades.

The prosecutor tried to get a restraining order to stop the city’s administration from implementing the charter, while the judge heard the merits of the case.

But Kent County Circuit Court Judge Paul Sullivan said it was okay for the city to make the change before he decides the case. Sullivan declined the restraining order because he said the prosecutor couldn’t prove it would cause any immediate harm.

Mayor George Heartwell, one of a few elected city leaders who supported the charter change, said he was “pleased” by that ruling. In late January, Heartwell said the city would implement the change within about a month.

But now, Grand Rapids City Manager Greg Sundstrom says the city will wait for a decision on the actual merits of the case.

Flickr/lavocado

A Republican state lawmaker has introduced legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

The Michigan Supreme Court has ruled the state’s medical marijuana law does not allow dispensaries.

State Representative Mike Callton says that’s a hole in the law that needs to be fixed because it creates an unfair hardship on terminally ill people.

“The problem”, he said, “if there’s 126,000 patients in Michigan right now, and only one in three has a caregiver. So the Supreme Court ruling, by taking out the dispensaries, and I can see that it wasn’t in the law, it either leaves patients without caregivers to either go underground or go without.”

“This cancer patient, this AIDS patient should be able to go right to a provisionary center – which my bill is creating – and get that prescription filled right away, get rid of that nausea, get that appetite back, keep that weight up, and have that quality of life even though you’re dying,” said Callton.

Callton says his bill would also reduce the illegal sale of marijuana because people who grow more than they need could provide it to other patients through a dispensary.

The legislation would allow local governments to outlaw dispensaries.  

Similar legislation failed to win approval last year, but Callton says legislators from both parties seem to be more accepting of the idea in this term.

The medical marijuana law was adopted overwhelmingly by voters in 2008.

boards.cannabis.com

Ever since Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana in 2008, confusion over how to implement the practice has reigned. 

In one of the most significant rulings to date, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled today that medical marijuana dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance.

Update 4:51 p.m.

MPRN's Jake Neher spoke with Michael Komorn of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.

Komorn said the ruling is a setback, but that it will be up to local communities to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries.

"I don't think, at the end of the day, that communities - and the people that are within the communities that are going to sit on the jury – are going to convict on these," said Komorn.

"The local authorities have made it clear that they don't want to, nor do they care about, this behavior. They don't find it to be a nuisance and it's not important for them to prosecute," he said.

Neher reports that Michigan State Attorney General Bill Schuette says he plans to send a letter to county prosecutors explaining how the ruling empowers them to close the dispensaries.

2:45 p.m.

After the Court of Appeals ruling in this case back in 2011, shutdowns and busts followed.

Now we're reading that some dispensaries are being advised to close their doors by their lawyers.

Emily Monacelli reports for MLive on the Med Joint Community Compassion Center in Kalamazoo County. After the ruling, the Center's founder, Kevin Spitler, said his doors would stay open, but that changed:

But less than an hour later, Spitler said his lawyer had advised him to shut down. He said he did not know how long the dispensary would stay closed.  Spitler has seven employees, including himself, all of whom are registered medical marijuana caregivers, he said. He declined to say how many patients they serve. 

"That means everybody has to go to the streets to get their medicine now," Spitler said of the effect of the Michigan Supreme Court ruling.

12:22 p.m.

The Michigan Supreme Court ruled today on a case heard before the Michigan Court of Appeals in August 2011.

In 2011, the Court of Appeals found that the Mount Pleasant dispensary, Compassionate Apothecary, was a public nuisance and in violation of the public health code, and that the sale of medical marijuana is not protected under the law.

Many dispensaries closed their doors after that ruling, waiting to see how police might respond. Some departments responded with raids and crackdowns, while others allowed the dispensaries to continue.

It remains to be seen what will occur in the wake of this ruling

The justices who signed the majority 4-2 opinion said their reasoning was different, but the conclusion they reached was the same.

From today's Michigan Supreme Court ruling:

Although it did so for a different reason than the one we articulate, the Court of Appeals reached the correct conclusion that defendants  are not entitled to operate a business that facilitates patient-to-patient sales of marijuana.  Because the business model of defendants’ dispensary relies entirely on transactions that do  not comply with the MMMA, defendants are operating their business in “[a] building . . . used for the unlawful . . . keeping for sale . . . or furnishing of any controlled substance,” and plaintiff is entitled to an injunction enjoining the continuing operation of the business because it is a public nuisance.

11:35 a.m.

We will link to the ruling once we have it.

Karen Bouffard writes for the Detroit News that Supreme Court Justices Chief Justice Robert Young Jr. and Justices Markman, Kelly and Zahra ruled that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 only protects registered caregivers and their patients.

The justices also ruled patient-to-patient transfers of medical marijuana are not legal under the voter-approved law, appearing to contradict a Court of Appeals decision last week that concluded there's nothing illegal about a medical marijuana user providing a small amount of pot to another registered user at no cost.

Here's more on that appeals court ruling

10:43 a.m.

DETROIT (AP) - The Michigan Supreme Court says users of medical marijuana can't buy it at pot shops.

The 4-1 decision Friday is the most significant court ruling since voters approved marijuana for certain illnesses in 2008. It means the state's 126,000 approved users must grow their own pot or have a state-licensed caregiver grow it for them.

The state appeals court declared dispensaries illegal in 2011, but enforcement has depended on the attitudes of local authorities. Some communities took a hands-off approach while waiting for the Supreme Court to make the ultimate decision.

The case involves a Mount Pleasant dispensary that allowed medical-marijuana users to sell pot to each other. Owners took as much as a 20 percent cut of each sale. Isabella County shut it down as a public nuisance.

user Laughing Squid / Creative Commons

Michigan courts are arguing over one of those gray areas.

A police officer comes into your home to check on you, but then finds something illegal and charges you with a crime.

That happened to a man in Hazel Park.

According to the Associated Press, police came to check on Eric Hill after a neighbor told police Hill had not been seen for several days and his cats were looking out the window.

Once inside, police discovered marijuana growing in his closet and charged him with drug crimes.

user PabloEvans / Flickr

HASTINGS, Mich. (AP) - The Michigan appeals court says there's nothing illegal about a medical marijuana user providing a small amount of pot to another registered user at no cost.

The court agreed Wednesday with a Barry County judge who had dismissed charges against Tony Green. It's the first decision by the appeals court in a case involving marijuana that changed hands without money.

There is no dispute that Green provided less than 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana to Al Thornton in Nashville, Mich., in September 2011. Both were qualified to use medical marijuana.

The Supreme Court heard arguments last fall in a case involving cash sales of marijuana. A decision is pending. The appeals court in 2011 said such sales are illegal.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

Dozens of people showed up in Lansing Friday to urge the state to allow medical marijuana use for post-traumatic stress disorder.

The state Bureau of Health Care Services held a meeting to collect public comment on adding PTSD to a list of allowable conditions.        

Marte Hughson is a former emergency room nurse. She said she’s been using marijuana medicinally since she was forced to leave her job and move from her home in Flint.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Grand Rapids will work to put a new charter amendment in place that decriminalizes marijuana, now that a Kent County judge today lifted a temporary restraining order preventing implementation.

City residents voted overwhelmingly for the amendment in November. Under the charter amendment people who get busted with a little pot in Grand Rapids would just pay a fine.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The City of Grand Rapids was prepared to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana today. But a Kent County judge issued a temporary restraining order to stop it.

So, roughly a hundred protestors gathered outside Kent County Prosecutor Bill Forsyth’s office at high noon.

“It’s such a bummer that we’re ignored,” resident Nick Monroe said.

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

Update 9:00p.m. - There's a growing crowd of people who say they'll protest the prosecutor's decision in Grand Rapids on Thursday. The event was posted on facebook this evening.

The City of Grand Rapids was ready to decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana this week. But a Kent County judge issued the city a temporary restraining order Monday afternoon at the request of the Kent County prosecutor to prevent implementation.

user elioja / Flickr

Michigan voters passed a medical marijuana law in 2008, but state prosecutors say its being abused.

The Times Herald of Port Huron reports on charges being leveled against a marijuana dispensary group:

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette filed charges Wednesday against six people connected to an investigation of the Blue Water Compassion Centers in St. Clair, Sanilac and Tuscola counties.

Authorities raided the centers, which distributed information about medical marijuana and other products, on Dec. 9, 2011 in Kimball Township in St. Clair County, Denmark Township in Tuscola County, and Worth Township and Lexington in Sanilac County.

Authorities also raided a greenhouse in Worth Township as well as the home of Debra Amsdill.

Six people face multiple felony charges, according to information and warrant documents from the attorney general’s office.

Debra Amsdill, an owner of the Blue Water Compassion Centers, said she would issue a statement on the charges tomorrow.

Marijuana in Michigan: What new pot laws mean for the state

Nov 14, 2012
miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Marijuana users across the state are claiming victory after the success of pro-pot ballot proposals in several Michigan cities.

Supporters say decriminalization of the drug in Flint, Grand Rapids, and Detroit shows that Michiganders are warming to the idea of a pot-friendly future.

But beyond symbolic value, how will these votes affect the way marijuana is managed and policed throughout the state?

Michigan Radio is venturing into the morass of overlapping local, state, and federal law to determine how the state manages weed.

We begin with a look at the new laws and how other Michigan towns have chosen to regulate marijuana.

Stateside: Michigan's marijuana laws receive revision

Nov 8, 2012
USFWS

This Tuesday Grand Rapids, Detroit and Flint witnessed a revision of laws concerning marijuana regulation.

David Uhlman, director of the University of Michigan's Environmental Law and Policy Program and Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith talked with Stateside about the specific changes and what they mean for Michigan residents.

Listen to the audio above to hear their conversation.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Flint’s Emergency Financial Manager says his job hasn’t changed, despite Tuesday’s vote to repeal Michigan’s controversial Emergency Manager law.

Flint voters strongly supported repealing the law. Their city is among those that have complained the most about the draconian measures the law permitted state appointees to take.

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

Voters in several Michigan cities passed proposals to ease legal restrictions on marijuana. On Tuesday people in Detroit, Flint and Grand Rapids voted overwhelmingly to make small amounts of marijuana okay to possess under city law. I’m not talking about the medical stuff here; this is just regular old pot.

"Prosecuting someone for peacefully using marijuana is about as ridiculous to me as prosecuting someone for sipping a vodka martini,” Tim Beck, chair of the Coalition for a Safer Detroit, said. Beck also worked to put Michigan’s medical marijuana laws in place.

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

In Grand Rapids a number of groups are offering people rides to their polling places.  

Organizer Josh Leffingwell leans out of the backseat of a minivan to flag down a man walking down the sidewalk.

“Excuse me sir? Have you had a chance to vote yet today?” he asks.

Grand Rapids resident Samuel Johnson accepts the free ride to the school where he votes – nearly a mile away.

Stateside: That status of Michigan's medical marijuana law

Oct 31, 2012
user Laughing Squid / Creative Commons

Nearly four years ago, Michigan voters approved the use of medical marijuana by 63% making Michigan one of 17 states permitting its usage.

The law removed state-level criminal penalties for using, possessing and growing marijuana by and for patients whose doctors have granted them medicinal usage of marijuana.

Throughout the past four years, however, the law has generated a considerable amount of confusion over who can grow marijuana and what its uses really are.

To assess where the law stands today, Stateside spoke with attorney Matthew Abel and Senator Rick Jones.

User: Brother O'Mara / Flickr

The story about the emergency managers have been modified to clarify that the opinion is that of the Attorney General.

Emergency managers

If Michigan’s emergency manager law is rejected by voters in November, then Attorney General Bill Schuette believes the old law should take over. That law still allows the governor to name an emergency financial manager to run a city or school district.

Public Act Four of 2011 is a souped-up version of Michigan’s old local government takeover law, and the attorney general says that old law is back in effect once the referendum is officially put on the ballot.

Bill Schuette says the referendum challenges the entire law and not just the concept of emergency managers.

Part of the new law specifically repealed the older law. That clears the way for the state to appoint or re-appoint managers running seven cities and school districts. They will be operating with diminished authority. Governor Snyder will also ask the Legislature to make some adjustments to the old law.

The referendum campaign disagrees with Schuette's ruling and says the governor and the attorney general are writing their own rules to get what they want. They say the governor can expect a legal fight each time he tries to re-appoint a local government manager.

Grand Rapids may ease marijuana charges

Grand Rapids residents may only get a civil infraction instead of a criminal charge for the possession of marijuana. Enough signatures were gathered to put the measure on the November ballot. "The proposed charter change is modeled after Ann Arbor’s city charter. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more than $100. The proposed changes would not allow marijuana sales or overrule state or federal laws. It would only change how local police officers deal with marijuana possession within city limits. The city clerk has until mid-September to certify the signatures before the decision goes before voters," Lindsay Smith reports.

The new bio-based economy

Soybeans have been called the new "bio-based economy." "The U-S Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack joined Michigan Senator Debbie Stabenow Monday at Ford headquarters in Dearborn to push for more bio-based products. Stabenow chairs the Senate Agriculture committee. Vilsack and Stabenow say strategic partnerships between farmers and industry are full of economic and environmental promise. Vilsak says there’s “unlimited capacity and opportunity” in the bio-based economy," Sarah Cwiek reports.

Tyler Nickerson / Decriminalize GR

A group that’s trying to make marijuana possession in the City of Grand Rapids only a civil infraction turned in more than enough signatures to get the initiative on the November ballot.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In Ann Arbor, fines for marijuana possession start at just $25 and are not more $100.

Tyler Nickerson is with the group known as Decriminalize GR. It collected more than 10,000 signatures during the petition drive.

missionunity.org

Starting July 1, Michigan head shops and convenience stores will have to stop selling K2, Spice and other popular synthetic drugs.

(Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court has cleared the way for Detroiters to vote on whether their city will be the first in the state to legalize marijuana.

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