marijuana

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Updated at 9:57 p.m.

We have this update from Rick Pluta -

The decision leaves the discretion to close a dispensary with local prosecutors.

Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick, who brought the case to the Court of Appeals, says local police in his bailiwick will start tonight delivering copies of the decision and warning letters to the "four or five  dispensaries in his bailiwick."

He says the letters warn the dispensaries they are out of compliance with the law if they accept payments for medical marijuana and, if so, they need to change their operations or shut down.

Ingham County Prosecutor Stuart Dunnings III says he's facing a more complicated situation. The city of Lansing has become a center for dispensaries. It has upwards of 40 -- some of them operate 24/7.

Dunnings says he warned city officials the dispensaries are illegal, but the city passed an ordinance allowing them. Dunnings says he intends to step carefully since the dispensary operators thought they were playing by the rules. Nevertheless, The Lansing City Pulse reports most of the  11 dispensaries on the Michigan Avenue strip directly east of the state Capitol responded to the ruling by closing their doors.   

 

Update 2:37 p.m.

Here's a video of the oral arguments made in front of the Michigan Court of Appeals on June 7, 2011.

The Court of Appeals ruled today that the marijuana dispensary in question operated in violation of the law.

People v Compassionate Apothecary from Eric L. VanDussen on Vimeo.

And here is Steve Carmody's raw interview with Michael Komorn, the president of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Association.

Komoron told Carmody that despite the ruling, dispensaries around the state will continue to operate under local implementation and interpretation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act - at least until the Michigan Supreme Court rules on the case.

Update 12:48 p.m.

Sarah Alvarez, Changing Gears Public Insight Analyst and lawyer, read the ruling that was released by the Michigan Court of Appeals this morning. A three-judge panel wrote the opinion (Joel Hoekstra, Christopher Murray, and Cynthia Stephens).

The case involves Isabella County prosecutors office and the two owners of the Compassionate Apothocary, a dispensary in Isabella County operating  with 345 members. Alvarez says the appeals court finds that no provision of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act would permit for patient to patient sale of marijuana.

The dispensary is therefore found to be a public nuisance and must cease operations. (important to note this is not a criminal prosecution).

user Laughing Squid / Creative Commons

This fall voters in Kalamazoo could make going after marijuana users the "lowest priority" for law enforcement officials. The question will likely appear on the ballot this November.

If the proposed amendment to Kalamazoo’s city charter passes, public safety officials would treat people with an ounce of marijuana or less as their “lowest priority.” The change would only affect those 21 and older. It would still be illegal to drive under the influence or use marijuana in a public place.

user eljoja / Flickr

Last Friday, the Drug Enforcement Administration rejected a petition that sought to reclassify marijuana. The petition came from the Coalition for Rescheduling Cannabis and had been in front of the DEA for nine years.

From Occupational Health and Safety Magazine:

The Drug Enforcement Administration has rejected a nine-year-old petition seeking to reclassify marijuana from Schedule I of the Controlled Substances Act, holding that it meets the three criteria for placing a substance in Schedule I under 21 U.S.C. 812(b)(1):

  • Marijuana has a high potential for abuse,
  • Marijuana has no currently accepted medical use in treatment in the United States, and
  • There is a lack of accepted safety for use of marijuana under medical supervision.There are five categories for drugs under the Controlled Substances Act.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear several cases that could clarify the rules surrounding Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law.

A man with a medical cannabis card who grew marijuana in a backyard structure wants a court ruling that says he was within his legal rights. He was cited by police for not having the grow-area properly locked and enclosed. In another case, a man claims he was improperly charged with possession because he is a medical marijuana user – even though at the time of his arrest he had not yet obtained a medical marijuana card.

The court cases are working their way through the legal system as communities are drafting and re-drafting ordinances on the operation of medical marijuana clinics, and the Legislature is debating additional laws to stake out the rules for medical marijuana.

USFWS

ROME TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) - Federal authorities have filed charges and taken over the case of thousands of marijuana plants discovered in Lenawee County.

The government says more than 8,000 plants worth millions were found last week in Rome Township, 65 miles southwest of Detroit. Edwin and Linda Schmieding were charged in federal court Monday with conspiracy and growing more than 1,000 marijuana plants.

Agent Lloyd Hopkins says Linda Schmieding told police they were paid $500 a week for marijuana, and some pot was sold as medical marijuana.

The Schmiedings likely will appear this week in federal court in Detroit. They've been in the Lenawee County jail since June 6.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The state Treasury Department says medical marijuana cannot be taxed in Michigan without a change in the law. The medical marijuana law was enacted by voters in 2008. But the law is silent on the question of taxing medical marijuana dispensed by licensed clinics and caregivers.  

James Campbell is an accountant who asked for the opinion. He says the state has not been taxing dispensaries and caregivers. But Campbell says he could not be sure that wouldn’t change.

Two years ago, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment allowing the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Voters from liberal Ann Arbor to staunchly conservative Ottawa County supported this change.

Some, to be sure, saw this as opening the door to a complete legalization of marijuana. However, they appear to have been a minority. Most people seem to have felt that those who are legitimately suffering from disease such as glaucoma ought to be able to use the drug in cases where it could ease their pain.

But the devil is always in the details, and we probably should have foreseen that administering this law was going to be an unholy mess. Yesterday, the Detroit Free Press took a comprehensive look at how the medical marijuana law has been working.

To nobody’s surprise, their answer was: Not very well. The state is struggling with a huge backlog of applications to grow the stuff.

Prosecutors, meanwhile, have been going after people who may be falsely claiming to be growing and selling pot for medical use, and there are also rumors that certain physicians are happy to certify that most anybody qualifies to use marijuana for “medical” purposes.

On top of that, neither the constitutional amendment - or any other law - has made it clear where medical marijuana is supposed to come from. Part of the problem is that marijuana is a controlled substance whose use is illegal under federal law.

So, basically, the original source of any pot supply has got to be illegal, even if the state of Michigan approves someone to grow marijuana for medical reasons. There is also, so far as I can tell, absolutely nothing to ensure purity or quality control of the supply.

Basically, then, we’ve got a system of something approaching anarchy when it comes to medical marijuana.

So, what do we do about it?

Troy Holden / Flickr

People with medical marijuana cards may soon be unable to smoke together in their support groups. A bill approved by a state Senate committee would prohibit so-called “marijuana clubs” or bars.

Republican state Senator Rick Jones says people who gather to smoke marijuana away from their homes could easily become a danger on the roads to other drivers.

 “There’s really no good reason for people to gather and consume marijuana. If somebody really needs to know how to use it, their care provider can go to their home and teach them. They don’t need to gather in a bar-like atmosphere.”

Medical marijuana supporters say the bill is a continued attempt by lawmakers to add rules to the constitutional amendment approved by voters. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was approved by voters by a wide margin in 2008.

Greg Pawlowski is a representative of medical marijuana support groups. He told lawmakers that regulation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act is an attempt to stifle the voices of patients. 

 “I applaud you so much for taking the time to talk to us, but now you need to hear what we have to say, and not talk amongst each other that we’re wrong. Because this is not an issue of being right or wrong, this is a human issue. I should not have to be a second-class citizen and have to have a patient card.”

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving who has access to patient information under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

USFWS

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in a case regarding a possible illegal search today.

In the case "The People of the State of Michigan vs. Mark Slaughter" - the defendant, Mark Slaughter, was charged with possessing marijuana plants in his basement after a firefighter found the plants during an emergency call. From the court filing:

On May 6, 2007, firefighters were called to the residence of Kathleen Tunner at 3206 Coolidge, Royal Oak, Michigan. Ms. Tunner testified that she suspected that water was running down the wall of her basement in her unit over her electrical box. Ms. Tunner contacted 911 and the fire department arrived...even though the unit in which called for assistance was Ms. Tunner's unit, Lieutenant Schunck never entered or inspected Ms. Tunner's unit...[Schunck] testified that they entered Defendant's unit, absent any signs of leaking water or hearing water running from outside Defendant's unit...Upon entering Defendants unit, the firefighters observed suspected marijuana plants...and subsequently contacted the police."

The Associated Press reports that lower courts have ruled in Slaughter's favor:

Slaughter's defense lawyer successfully argued that it was an illegal search. Prosecutors say there's an exception when authorities find evidence of a crime during an emergency.

So let's play armchair Supreme Court justice. Do you think this amounted to an illegal search? You can read the complaint to gather more information before you issue your ruling.

John Ter Beek
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The ACLU has filed lawsuits on behalf of medical marijuana users in the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia after those cities effectively banned medical marijuana.

Now add the city of Wyoming to the list of cities being sued by the ACLU. The ACLU said it will represent John Ter Beek "a medical marijuana patient who fears being penalized by local officials if he grows or uses medical marijuana in compliance with state law."

The Wyoming city council unanimously passed a ban on medical marijuana earlier this month.

 University of Michigan researchers say drug use is rising among middle schoolers.   They say it could be a ‘bell weather’ of problems ahead.  

Marijuana plant
USFWS

Michigan's medical marijuana law is intended "to provide protections for the medical use of marihuana."

But a) it conflicts with federal law, and b) it does not provide details on how and where registered medical marijuana users can get their pot. Confusion reigns around these issues and court battles are heating up.

Some cities accept the state law and are regulating pot dispensaries through ordinances or zoning laws.

Others are refusing to accept the law and are passing ordinances that effectively ban medical marijuana.

Here we plan to keep a running tally of how cities across Michigan are reacting to the medical marijuana law. Let us know if you have more information that should be posted here!

Unemployment benefits deal reached

President Obama says he has reached a deal with Republican lawmakers to extend unemployment benefits. 180,000 Michiganders were going to see their benefits expire by April if a deal was not reached. In exchange for the benefit extensions, Obama agreed to extend the Bush-era tax cuts at all income levels, including the wealthy. The New York Times reports that Obama said the deal is "not perfect, but this compromise is an essential step on the road to recovery." But a battle may still remain, congressional democrats say they have not agreed to any deal yet.

City bans medical marijuana

A fourth city has banned medical marijuana. Wyoming, a suburb of Grand Rapids, passed the ban last night in a unanimous city council vote. Michigan Radio's Lindsey Smith reports that Wyoming Mayor Jack Poll says the ban is not a rebuke of medical marijuana rather "this is a vote against the way it is being dispensed."  Medical marijuana dispensaries have been popping up in different parts of the state after voters approved the medical marijuana law in 2008. The dispensaries are often in nondescript storefronts. The Detroit Free Press reports that Mayor Poll, a pharmacist himself, says medical marijuana should be dispensed like other legal drugs, presumably at mainstream pharmacies.

State to honor Pearl Harbor Day

Governor Granholm is asking Michigan residents to lower flags to half staff today to honor Pearl Harbor Day.  Sixty-nine years ago this morning, Japan attacked U.S. Forces stationed at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. 2,334 servicemen and servicewomen were killed. 1,143 were wounded. Granholm says the action also honors current  service men and women:

"We also salute the brave men and women currently stationed around the world, including those fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, who are defending and protecting the freedom our nation holds so dear." 

Marijuana plant.
USFWS

The Michigan chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union announced today that it will sue the cities of Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia. The ACLU is suing on behalf of Linda Lott, a 61 year-old from Birmingham who is suffering from multiple sclerosis.

In the ACLU's press release Lott is quoted as saying:

(lky luciano/Google Creative Commons)

DETROIT, MICH. (Michigan Radio) - A federal judge in Grand Rapids will hear arguments tomorrow in a suit challenging the firing of a medical marijuana patient.

Joseph Cassias was fired from a Walmart in Battle Creek a year ago after he tested positive for marijuana.

Dan Korobkin is an attorney for the ACLU who's representing Cassias. He says employers from across the country are watching the case.

Marijuana plants
A7nubis / Creative Commons

The state's medical marijuana law is "inartfully drafted" according to Appellate Court Judge Peter O'Connell. O'Connell was quoted in a Detroit News article saying the law is so confusing that users "who proceed without due caution" could "lose both their property and their liberty."

Marijuana leaf
Hendrike / Creative Commons

An Oakland County Judge prohibited defendants charged with violating drug laws from smoking marijuana while on bond until their hearing in October. The defendants say they use medical marijuana legally under the state's medical marijuana law.  The Detroit News has a story about the ruling.  In it they described the scene outside the courtroom:

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