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.
Cyndy Canty: What is the process of approval to obtain medical marijuana?
Senator Rick Jones: Currently, you have to see a doctor personally and be examined.
Canty: How is the state system working for patients?
Matthew Abel: Not as well as it could be. My law partner and I sued the state recently for failure to file the annual report that is now 3 years overdue. It’s clearly a stall and there is no explanation for it.
Jones: I would support a panel to examine new conditions, but I also think the panel must examine conditions that are in the law that should not be. A good example is glaucoma; I’ve had numerous experts testify they have had patients stop their eye drops, only use marijuana and are now blind.
Canty: Where are the biggest inherent problems in Michigan’s marijuana act?
Jones: Currently we have felons that are acting as caregivers. I think that needs to be cleared up. The people in mid-Michigan did not want so many dispensaries there.
Abel: This (where to put the dispensaries) is a zoning issue, it should be determined by the local governments. We do need to change federal law.
Jones: If there is a federal law change, I would support medical marijuana and taking it to pharmacies and dispensing it that way. What we have now is the wild, wild, west and we have a number of people that got growing cards and are using them for recreational use.
Abel: There is a lack of respect for the law on the part of law enforcement and prosecution. It is especially uneven in Oakland County. It’s gotten to the point that if you are a medical marijuana patient and you leave your grow room unlocked to go answer the door, you could be charged with a felony.
Canty: Why is there uneven enforcement?
Jones: Because the enforcement depends on the stance of the prosecutor in 83 different counties.
What does the future hold for patients suffering from cancer or Crohn’s disease?
Abel: There is a lot of science left to be done, I wish the medical community would embrace this and research it.
Jones: I am all for research and I think that any marijuana that is sold as medical marijuana should be tested. Right now, you have no idea what you’re getting.
Canty: How was a lot of this not in place before it became a law?
Jones: I think the committee that drew up the ballot initiative purposely wrote it grey because they simply want to legalize marijuana. But the way it was sold to the people of Michigan was, would this be a product that seniors or people in their late stages of life want?
Abel: I think now that people have seen how medical marijuana works for grandma when she eats a brownie and can sleep at night that they would vote in higher numbers. I disagree with the conceptualization that the law was vague, it was written in a broad manner to protect patients.
Canty: What needs to be done to make this a more effective law for patients?
Jones: I would like to see a federal law change if we’re going to have marijuana use as a medical product. I would like it to be tested and handled as any other pharmaceutical drug. I would like to see patients that want this that have appropriate diseases be able to get it at the pharmacy. I want the product to be safe and I would like to make sure we have legitimate doctors prescribing this. However, what we have now are a lot of people that have obtained cards, I believe, for recreational use. I don’t think that is what the voters want.
Abel: The government needs to follow the law. People need to understand that prohibition does not work, it never has. We are spending precious government resources when less than half the violent crimes are solved but the drug crimes are solved at huge amounts. This is a public health problem. Marijuana prohibition needs to be repealed. There is nothing wrong with responsible use of marijuana by adults.
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