medical marijuana


Investigative journalists Alyson Martin and Nushin Rashidian present a book that explores the new landscape of cannabis in the United States in a book called A New Leaf: The End of Cannabis Prohibition.

Voters in 22 states, including Michigan, have said yes to medical marijuana laws. In November 2012, voters in Colorado and Washington legalized recreational use of marijuana.

Public opinion continues to shift toward policies that favor legalizing cannabis.

Yet, 49.5% of federal government drug-related arrests involve the sale, manufacture, or possession of cannabis.

In their book, Martin and Rashidian interviewed patients, growers, entrepreneurs, politicians, activists, and regulators in nearly every state with a medical cannabis law.

They analyze how recent milestones toward legalization will affect the war on drugs both domestically and internationally. The book is a unique account of how legalization is manifesting itself in the lives of millions.

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The top lawmaker in the state Senate says he’s now on board with legislation to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, is now also embracing a bill that would allow state-certified patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of marijuana.

Richardville was not a fan of the legislation when the state House approved it late last year. But he says that has changed as he’s heard more from supporters of the bills.

“This is for well-meaning people and it’s all for medical purposes. And [patients and caregivers] came and gave some moving testimony,” said Richardville.

“There’s so much to learn about that topic, and I didn’t know a lot about it. And I didn’t realize how difficult smoking is for some people and the different ingestion techniques that are important to them.”

Supporters of House Bill 4271 say dispensaries allow people to get treatment right away, instead of having to wait for a caregiver to grow and cultivate marijuana. They say that process can take months. Patients with certain diseases, such as cancer, sometimes don’t live long enough to get the benefits of medical marijuana.

A number of state Supreme Court rulings in recent years have made it impossible for dispensaries to operate the way they did when Michigan voters first approved the state’s Medical Marijuana Act in 2008.

Advocates say House Bill 5104 is also necessary because a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling limited legal medical marijuana use to smokable forms. They say children and people with respiratory illnesses should not be forced to smoke cannabis. Products like candies, lotions, and oils can produce unique benefits and some don’t produce a “high” effect, according to patients and caregivers.

Richardville chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, where the bills sit now. He expects to move the bills to the Senate floor over the summer. He says a vote in the full state Senate could come as early as September.

Marijuana plant.

The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear two more medical marijuana cases. Two medical marijuana cardholders want the state’s highest court to rule that a voter-approved law shields them from criminal charges.

In both cases, the defendants say the fact that they have medical marijuana cards should protect them from prosecution even if they did not abide by the letter of the law.

In one case, a cardholder who was also allowed to provide marijuana to two patients was charged after he sold pot to an undercover police officer posing as a patient. In the other case, the cardholder had more marijuana than he needed for his patients, and the plants were not kept in a separate locked location.

They both say the medical marijuana law offers sweeping protections to state-issued cardholders from criminal charges. Michigan’s medical marijuana statute was approved by an overwhelming majority of the state’s voters in 2008. More than 130 thousand Michigan residents have registered for cards. 

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette kicked off his reelection campaign today in his hometown of Midland.

In his speech, Schuette touted his record in office, including efforts to combat human trafficking and protect pensions.

“A record that’s strong and clear. It’s a record of being a voice for victims. A voice for the constitution and a voice for Michigan,” says Schuette. “It’s a long election and I’m going to win. I’m going to take my case to the citizens across the state of Michigan.”

Schuette didn’t directly address the controversy over same-sex marriage.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING – More than five years after Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana, advocates say gaps in the law cause needless confusion and prosecution.

Two Republican House bills aim to clarify the law by legalizing dispensaries and edibles. Neither was directly addressed in the 2008 law, but court rulings have since judged them illegal. More than 100,000 patients and 27,000 caregivers are licensed by the state to use and grow marijuana.


In This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss the financial emergency in Royal Oak Township, the approval of PTSD for medical marijuana use, and how Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is going after energy companies accused of drastically bringing down the prices of oil and gas land leases, and why some people paid as much as $8 a gallon for propane this year.

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Michigan residents suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder will now be able to get medical marijuana, marking the first mental-health disorder approved for medical marijuana use.

The decision came yesterday, as the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs signed off on the proposal from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Review panel.

As Michigan Public Radio Network’s Jake Neher explains, the decision is the result of months of deliberation.

How will the decision affect veterans who apply for federal benefits? Is Lansing considering adding other conditions to the issue?

Listen to the full interview above. 

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Dakota Serna served in the Marines during the Iraq War. He says memories of seeing friends and children killed left him suicidal after he came home. Serna says the only thing that has helped him get his life back on track is using marijuana.  

But that puts him on the wrong side of the law as it is currently written.

“Somebody on paper can say that I’m a criminal,” said Serna. “Somebody can come to my house and try to put me in handcuffs. But I’m not a criminal.”


Some Michigan medical marijuana patients and caregivers could soon be banned from smoking or growing cannabis where they live.

A state Senate panel approved a bill on Tuesday that would let landlords decide whether to allow tenants to grow or smoke medical marijuana.

“We’ve had a lot of apartment owners that have people smoking marijuana or growing marijuana, doing damage to the apartments, creating danger for other residents,” said state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, who introduced the legislation.

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Gov. Rick Snyder has signed a bill into law that clears the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. But that’s only if the federal government reclassifies cannabis as a legal prescription drug.

There’s no clear sign that will happen any time soon.

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Dark money bills go to Gov. Snyder's desk

"People who pay for so-called “issue ads” would be able to stay anonymous under a bill that has cleared the state Legislature. It would also double the amount of money people can give to campaigns and political action committees – or “PACS”. The bill now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk," Jake Neher reports.

Three medical marijuana bills move forward

"Medical marijuana patients in Michigan would have more ways to legally obtain and consume cannabis under three bills that cleared the state House Thursday. A bill to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate again in Michigan and another to let patients use edible or topical forms of medical marijuana will now go to the state Senate. Lawmakers in both the House and Senate approved legislation that could clear the way for pharmacies to sell medical marijuana in Michigan. That now goes to Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk," Jake Neher reports.

New petition drive planned against anti-abortion coverage law

"A campaign is organizing to block the new law that will require people to buy a separate insurance policy for abortion coverage. The Legislature approved the law this week. Because it’s a petition initiative, it will take effect next year without the governor’s signature. Abortion rights advocates are putting together a coalition to launch a petition drive." Rick Pluta reports.

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This Week in Michigan Politics, Jack Lessenberry and Christina Shockley discuss marijuana and campaign finance bills and the appointment of the first female CEO of General Motors.

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The U.S. government no longer owns GM

The U.S. government sold its last stock in General Motors today. The government no longer owns parts of the company.

Medical marijuana bills could move forward today

"A state House panel could vote as early as today on some high-profile medical marijuana bills. The legislation would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan and allow patients to use edible forms of cannabis," Jake Neher reports.

MSU student raises $3,000 for owner of flipped car

"A Michigan State University student has raised more than $3,000 to help pay for damage done to a stranger's car by rowdy Spartan fans after the school's football team beat Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game on Saturday," the Associated Press reports.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

DETROIT (AP) - Can workers who are fired in Michigan for using medical marijuana get unemployment benefits?

The state appeals court has agreed to tackle the issue in the months ahead. One case involves a hospital employee in Charlotte, Michigan, while another involves a forklift driver in Grand Rapids.

Jenine Kemp and Rick Braska were fired after their employers learned they used medical marijuana. Drug use violated company policy.

The Michigan House of Representatives in Lansing
Lester Graham / Michigan Radio

Each Thursday we talk Michigan politics with Susan Demas, publisher of Inside Michigan Politics, and Ken Sikkema, former Senate Majority Leader and Senior Policy Fellow at Public Sector Consultants.

The Michigan legislature is on recess until the first week of December. This feels like a much more subdued legislative session compared to last year. Today we ask, what has the legislature checked off it's list, what bills are likely to come up in December?

Listen to the full interview above.

Marijuana plant.

One of the more intriguing results of the recent elections here in Michigan centered on marijuana.

Voters in Ferndale, Jackson and Lansing voted to decriminalize small amounts of marijuana, and by large margins: Each passed with more than 60% of the vote. Voters in Grand Rapids, Ypsilanti, Flint and Detroit have passed similar proposals in recent years.

On the state level, Michigan voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2008. And a recent EPIC-MRA poll found nearly 80% of Michigan voters support ending criminal penalties for pot-related charges.

What’s behind this greater tolerance towards marijuana? And what could come from relaxing pot restrictions?

We talked with Melvyn Levitsky, a professor of International Policy and Practice at the University of Michigan’s Ford School of Public Policy. The former U.S. ambassador to Bulgaria and Brazil, Levitsky also served as Assistant Secretary of State for International Narcotics Matters.

Listen to the full interview above.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Five years after Michigan voters legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, lawmakers say it's time patients can buy the drug at their corner pharmacy.

Legislation approved last week by a Senate committee would pave the way for the production and sale of "pharmaceutical-grade" cannabis. The measure would create a second medical pot system in Michigan that proponents say wouldn't interfere with the existing law under which patients can grow their own pot or obtain it from caregivers.

The change couldn't occur without federal approval.

Jake Neher/ MPRN

Two medical marijuana patients have won a legal battle to have their infant daughter returned to them.

Today, an Ingham County judge OK'd a deal that will allow an infant girl, known as Baby Bree, to be returned to her parents.

John Ter Beek is a medical marijuana patient in Wyoming, MI
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court will hear a challenge today to a local ordinance that bans medical marijuana despite an amendment to the state constitution that allows it.

The city of Wyoming, outside Grand Rapids, enacted the ordinance three years ago. It outlaws any activity that’s already prohibited by federal law. It was directed at the state’s voter-approved medical marijuana amendment, which conflicts with federal drug laws.

The city says it acted within its authority because federal laws trump state laws.

Jake Neher/MPRN

Medical marijuana activists rallied in Lansing Tuesday to protest the removal of six-month-old Bree Green from her family last week. The activists say the state Department of Human Services (DHS) has targeted a number of medical marijuana users by taking away their kids.

Bree’s mother, Maria Green, is a state licensed medical marijuana caregiver. Her father is a patient and outspoken advocate.

Steve Green says he was elated that dozens of people showed up in support.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A medical marijuana cardholder has appealed a drug possession conviction to the Michigan Supreme Court. The appeal seeks clarification on how the law views putting marijuana or its active ingredient into baked goods.

   Earl Caruthers hopes the state’s highest court will reverse the Michigan Court of Appeals in his case.  He was stopped with some THC-laced brownies in the back of his car. He also had some pot in plastic bags, and was driving on a suspended license. But he’s only challenging a conviction related to the brownies.

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PTSD and insomnia patients urge medial marijuana panel to allow use

"A state advisory board heard overwhelming testimony in favor of approving medical marijuana for patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and insomnia. The board is considering ailments not already included under Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law," Jake Neher reports.

MSU pulls professor from classroom for anti-Republican rant

"A Michigan State University professor has been pulled from the classroom, after a conservative group posted a video online that showed him delivering an anti-Republican rant during a class," Steve Carmody reports.

Auction house comes to the DIA again

Detroit newspapers are reporting that Christie's Auction House visited the Detroit Institute of Art for the second time yesterday to appraise the museum's collection. Detroit's financial situation has raised concerns about whether the Detroit Institute of Arts' collection might be at risk of sale. However Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr has said he has "no plans to use art to relieve  the liquidity crisis that the city is in now."

Jake Neher/MPRN

Melody Karr says doctors have told her cannabis might not be helpful for the posttraumatic stress she’s suffered since her husband’s grisly suicide. She says they’re wrong in assuming side-effects such as forgetfulness could interfere with talk-therapy.

“The problem is not that I can’t think or talk about my post-traumatic stress and the issues related to it. The problem is that I can’t stop thinking or talking about it.”

user eljoja / Flickr

A state review board has voted to keep autism and asthma off the list of health conditions that can be legally treated using medical marijuana.

But activists say the panel is acting in violation of the state’s medical marijuana law. They say the votes were taken without proper public comment and that the board lacks adequate representation from the medical community.

Panel chair Matthew Davis says public comment was not necessary because the ailments had already been considered by a previous board.

“The public hearings therefore occurred as part of our process, specified under law,” Davis said. And then today, our review panel took another look at these diagnoses and the remarks of the public regarding autism and asthma.”

That previous board was dissolved by the state because its make-up also violated the medical marijuana law. The state says it’s working to fix the problem.

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A state panel will meet this week to consider whether new health conditions should be covered under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act, but there’s a question over whether the board’s make-up violates that law.

The state dissolved a similar panel earlier this year. That board had already voted to allow patients suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder and Parkinson’s disease to use medical pot, but those conditions were never officially added to the list of acceptable ailments.

Now some advocates question whether the new board risks the same fate because it doesn’t include proper representation from the medical community.

Attorney and medical marijuana advocate Michael Komorn says it could be a setback for patients.

“It just seems to be more bureaucratic nonsense that has impeded the proper implementation of this law. And it’s uncalled for.”

Komorn says it’s critical to put a board in place that complies with the voter-approved law.

“I don’t know why the government can’t get it together to allow these other conditions - that people can receive benefits from - from moving forward,” said Komorn.

State officials say they’re working to fix the make-up of the panel.

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.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

A state House panel is likely to take up a bill soon that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Republican lawmakers are starting to take interest in the issue.

Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court handed down a ruling that effectively stopped most marijuana dispensaries from operating in the state. The court ruled that the dispensaries can be shut down as a public nuisance. Now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

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Medical marijuana dispensaries could be revived in Michigan

A state House panel is soon likely to take up a bill that would revive medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan. Earlier this year, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled to stop most marijuana dispensaries; but now state lawmakers say they’re close to a deal on legislation that would allow and regulate the facilities.

Republican representative Mike Callton told Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher, “without the dispensaries, patients will have very limited access to medical marijuana.”

Free trade with E.U. could benefit Michigan manufacturing

Michigan businesses will be closely watching free trade talks starting today between the United States and the European Union. The proposed trade deal would open markets between the U.S. and the 28 E.U. countries. Rich Studley is the president of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce. Studley told Michigan Radio's Steve Carmody, "an E.U. free trade deal would primarily benefit Michigan’s manufacturing industry."

Last chance to register for 2013 local elections

Today is the deadline to register to vote for the 56 local elections in Michigan this summer. Elections range from local primaries to school boards to city council votes. The Michigan Secretary of State is urging Michiganders to get out to vote in their local elections. Residents can go to their county or local clerk's office or a Secretary of State office to register.

Marijuana plant.

State lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow suspicion-based drug testing as a condition of welfare in Michigan. People on cash assistance could lose their benefits if they test positive for an illegal substance.

As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported, it’s not clear how the bill would affect medical marijuana patients. 

To listen to the full story, click the audio above.

A group of Democratic Senators in Lansing have proposed a package of bills dealing with marriage equality. We spoke with state Senator Rebekah Warren about why she thinks now is the time to bring up these measures.

And, the library you may have grown up with is changing. We took a look at the new technologies changing the way we access information and what that means for the future of libraries in Michigan.

Also, Michigan gas prices are now the second-highest in the country. Patrick DeHaan, a Senior Petroleum Analyst, spoke with us about how this happened.

First on the show, state lawmakers are considering a bill that would allow suspicion-based drug testing as a condition of welfare in Michigan. People on cash assistance could lose their benefits if they test positive for an illegal substance.

As Michigan Public Radio’s Jake Neher reported, it’s not clear how the bill would affect medical marijuana patients.