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

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.

user A7nubis /

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.

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.

Prarie Plant Systems

A Canadian company specializing in plant-based pharmaceuticals wants to turn an old copper mine in Michigan's Upper Peninsula into a large-scale medical marijuana farm.

Paul Egan from the Detroit Free Press reports that Prairie Plant Systems (PPS), along with their stateside subsidiary SubTerra, purchased the White Pine Mine in 2003 and began using it for other types of plant-based research. But the company hopes to start using the facility to produce pot and tap into Michigan's market of 131,000 medical marijuana users.

According to Egan, PPS already operates a marijuana growing facility in Canada and has a lucrative contract to supply medical pot to the Canadian government. But while Michigan voters have approved medical marijuana use, the project is still a long way from becoming a reality.

Egan writes:

The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, the Food and Drug Administration, the Legislature and Gov. Rick Snyder would all have to sign off, and in the case of the first two agencies, reverse direction on policy. Federal agencies consider marijuana illegal. DEA agents have not cracked down on small operations to supply licensed patients but almost certainly would view SubTerra as a major bust opportunity.

Legal hurdles aside, why use a mine to grow an underground pot crop?

Egan spoke to Brent Zettl, president and CEO of PPS:

Growing marijuana hundreds of feet underground - the same way the company started its Canadian operations in 2001 - provides security, constant temperature, controlled light and humidity, and protects the plants from bugs and diseases, eliminating the need for harmful pesticides and herbicides, Zettl said. He said any medical marijuana sold in Michigan should be subject to the same regular and rigorous testing as is found in Canada.

However, according to Egan, PPS's regulated growing techniques have caused some Canadian users to complain about the quality and taste of the company's product.

-John Klein Wilson, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio


The state Senate could vote this week on the first major amendment to the Michigan medical marijuana law since it was adopted by voters in 2008. A measure approved Tuesday by a Senate committee would remove the eye disease glaucoma from the list of conditions that would qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card.

Doctor David Newman is the president of the Michigan State Medical Society. He says glaucoma never should have been part of the proposal.

“The medical marijuana act was approved by public referendum but the language presented to the voters presented unclear information and, in this case, was contrary to the medical evidence on glaucoma,” Newman said. 

Newman says marijuana, at the most, can only offer very short-term relief from the symptoms of glaucoma. He says the bigger problem for doctors is that patients use it instead of proven medical strategies for controlling the condition and preventing blindness.

But some glaucoma patients like Barbara Knox showed up at a state Senate committee meeting to oppose the bill. Knox says she uses marijuana along with her prescribed medication.

“If you had my eyes, would you not do everything you could to prevent blindness?” Knox asked. “The thought of going blind just terrifies me. Please, please help me save my right to use an alternate medicine to aid in the treatment of my glaucoma.”

Knox says her doctor would prefer she not use marijuana.

Amending the voter-approved medical marijuana would require super-majorities in the House and the Senate.


A state Senate committee has voted to strip glaucoma from the list of conditions that qualify a patient for a medical marijuana card. The state Senate could vote on the amendment to the voter-approved medical marijuana law later this week.

More details to come soon.

miss.libertine / Creative Commons

Grand Rapids voters could decide if people caught with marijuana should only be charged with a civil infraction, instead of a criminal charge. A group of residents begins collecting signatures Friday to put the measure on the November ballot in the city.

The group modeled the proposed changes to Grand Rapids’ city charter after Ann Arbor’s. In that city, people caught with marijuana pay just a $25 fine for the first offense, but get no higher than $100.

The proposed charter change reads in part;

The state of Michigan has ordered a new printer that will allow it to produce 4,000 medical marijuana cards a day.

Rae Ramsdell, who oversees the program, says 40,000 people who don't have cards have been given a tamper-proof letter to show they're qualified to use marijuana for medicinal purposes.

More than 131,000 people have been approved for marijuana. Thousands more serve as caregivers, who are allowed to grow marijuana for up to five people.

user elioja / Flickr

Michigan’s medical marijuana law is the focus of ongoing discussions at the state Capitol this week.

Lawmakers are considering proposals that would add regulations to how users can grow and store medical marijuana, and could change how police officers gather information about medical marijuana ID holders.

State Representative John Walsh (R- Livonia) chairs the House committee discussing the medical marijuana proposals.

He said he knows not everyone will be happy with the measures, but he says it’s not his intention to dramatically alter the medical marijuana law as it was approved by voters.

“We’ve worked hard to be as open as possible, and to prove to the skeptics that we’re open minded,” said Walsh.

Supporters of medical marijuana say lawmakers are “nipping away at the edges” of the medical marijuana law by considering the changes. And they say they are particularly concerned with a proposal in the state Senate that would eliminate glaucoma as a medical condition that is treatable with marijuana.

Walsh says medical marijuana users don’t need to be concerned about the proposed changes.

"We’re not doing away with the law, or undoing what voters asked for when they passed it, and I think we made that very very clear, to the point that when I left the room a number of medical marijuana came up and said, ‘Wow, we thought you were out to crush the whole movement, and now we understand you’re open to different things,’” said Walsh.


The Michigan Court of Appeals ruled this morning that a judge ruled incorrectly when he upheld the Detroit Election Commission's decision to block a 2010 ballot measure.

The ballot measure would have allowed voters to decide on reducing penalties for people 21 or older who possessed less than an ounce of marijuana on private property in Detroit.

Detroit officials didn't allow the proposal to go forward because they said it would conflict with state drug laws

More from the Detroit Free Press:

A 2-1 majority of the appeals panel said city officials did not have the authority to make that determination.

“It was outside the authority of (city officials) to consider the substance and effect of the initiative and defendants have a clear legal duty to place the matter on the ballot,” the court wrote.

In the majority were judges Henry Saad and Elizabeth Gleicher. Dissenting was Judge Jane Markey.

The Associated Press reports the appeals court acknowledged that marijuana possession still would be illegal under Michigan law even if Detroiters had passed the ordinance.

Panelists offered a variety of perspectives on marijuana laws at the annual Wayne State University law review symposium Friday.

The largely civil conversation ranged widely, from the potential benefits of legalizing and taxing marijuana, to the perils of legalizing a drug that many think would be hard to regulate.

One symposium panelist was Kevin Sabet, a former advisor to the National Office of Drug Control Policy.

(L)Brian Robert Marshall/ (R) USFWS

Michigan voters may soon be asked whether utility companies should be required to collect a fourth of their energy from renewable sources such as solar, wind, and hydropower. The state Board of Canvassers approved the language of a petition that calls on utilities to draw more from clean energy sources by 2025.

Mark Fisk is with a coalition working to get the question on the ballot this November. He told the panel reviewing the petition that the fee increases people would pay for more clean energy would be small.

“The average rate-payer would pay no more in a year than $15 for the implementation of this proposal,” said Fisk. “Moreover, we have analysis that shows over time this initiative would reign in the cost of rising energy costs, compared to doing nothing.”

The Board of Canvassers also approved a petition that would end prohibition of marijuana in the state for anyone age 21 or older.

Matthew Abel is director of Committee for a Safer Michigan, which is leading the petition drive. He said if voters approved the measure, marijuana would still be illegal under federal law.  

“Generally the federal government has a rule of thumb where they tend not to prosecute anyone who has possession of less than 100 plants or 100 kilos of dry material, so generally they stick to larger cases,” Abel said. “But they could prosecute any individual for one single plant or one single gram of marijuana.”

Each petition drive must collect more than 300,000 valid signatures to get the question on the ballot.

screen grab from YouTube video

As the debate continues in Michigan over how to enforce the state's medical marijuana law, a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association concludes that regularly smoking marijuana does not impair lung function.

Here is one of the co-authors of the research, Dr. Stefan Kertesz, explaining what they found.

Dr. Kertesz is an associate professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine and a physician at the Birmingham VA Medical Center.

He says other studies on the subject showed mixed results.

"What this study clarifies," Kertesz explains in the video, "is that the relationship to marijuana and lung function changes depending on how much a person has taken in over the course of a lifetime."

"At those very high levels of use, there could be harm. However, at those lower or moderate levels of use… there’s no real evidence of harm to air flow rate or to lung capacity," said Kertesz.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A new national survey shows more teens are using pot and see it as less of a risk, while alcohol use among that age group has dropped to historic lows.

The findings released Wednesday were based on an annual survey of 47,000 eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders conducted by the University of Michigan for the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

One of every 15 high school seniors reported smoking pot on a daily or near daily basis, the highest rate since 1981. Researchers also noted one of every nine high school seniors reported using synthetic marijuana within the previous 12 months.

Researchers say use of a particular drug drops when teens consider it dangerous. The percentage of teens who see "great risk" in using marijuana generally has dropped in recent years.

flickr user bobdoran /

An official from Michigan's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said an equipment malfunction led to a backlog in printing around 20,000 cards for medical marijuana patients, according to the Saginaw News.

The newspaper reports the backlog goes back to medical marijuana applications received since last July.

Celeste Clarkson, compliance section manager with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs spoke at a seminar on medical marijuana enforcement in Saginaw Township.

From the Saginaw News:

The state has continued to print up to 800 cards a day for medical marijuana patients and caregivers, but the volume of applications has approaches 1,500 a day. Once an application has been approved, the state has five days to print a card under state rules.

The state is reviewing how best to catch up on the backlog, she said...

The state has received nearly 200,000 medical marijuana applications through the end of October with 120,597 active patients, according to state figures.

The state has 45,531 active caregiver registry card users. A caregiver must have one card for each patient and may have no more than five patients. A caregiver can provide no more than 12 marijuana plants for each patients.

The state has denied 14,288 applications, she said. Those denied may reapply.


Voters in Kalamazoo voted to make possession of an ounce or less of marijuana a "low" local police priority.

Supporters of the effort said police in the city should instead focus on violent crime.

More from the Kalamazoo Gazette:

All votes are in and Kalamazoo citizens voted to make a small amount of marijuana use a low priority for Kalamazoo’s law enforcers on Tuesday night.

The ballot initiative passed with 4,649 "yes" votes to 2,416 that voted it down.

The proposal read: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?”

Kalamazoo is the first city in the state to have such charter language.

The city's Public Safety director has said that the result of the vote will most likely not effect how police in the city do their job.