medical marijuana

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On Tuesday, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana patients are not automatically breaking the law if caught driving after using marijuana.

Passed in 2008 by Michigan voters, the state’s Medical Marihuana Act does prohibit patients from operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of pot.

But the law fails to explicitly say just how much THC, marijuana’s active ingredient, needs to be in the bloodstream for a user to be considered “under the influence.”

Which is why the justices offered this piece of advice to lawmakers: Set a legal limit for pot consumption, just like the blood alcohol content metric for alcohol intoxication.

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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).

John Ter Beek
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

The Michigan Supreme Court says it will consider the legality of a city's zoning ordinance that prohibits the use, manufacture or cultivation of medical marijuana.

The court issued an order Wednesday agreeing to hear an appeal filed by the city of Wyoming in the Grand Rapids area. Justices want to know if the zoning ordinance is superseded by Michigan's 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law.

Significantly, the court also plans to consider if the state law is pre-empted by a federal law that makes marijuana use illegal.

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Michigan Supreme Court to consider city ban on medical marijuana

The Michigan Supreme Court will consider the legality of a zoning ordinance that prohibits the use, manufacture or cultivation of medical marijuana in the city of Wyoming.

“Justices want to know if the zoning ordinance is superseded by Michigan's 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law,” according to the Associated Press.

Right to work lawsuit allowed to move forward

“An Ingham County judge says a lawsuit seeking to repeal the state’s new right-to-work law can proceed. The suit says the Legislature violated the Open Meetings Act when it closed the Capitol as the bills were debated,” Jake Neher reports.

Lawsuit over criminal defense system proceeds

The Michigan Court of Appeals will allow a long-running lawsuit challenging the system of appointing lawyers for poor criminal defendants to continue.  

“In a 2-1 decision released Wednesday, the court says a lower judge was okay to reject the state's contention that the case shouldn't be granted class-action status. The suit says the rights of poor people have been violated because of the paltry pay for court-appointed lawyers,” the Associated Press reports.

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Two laws took effect this week in Michigan, one concerning abortion and the other concerning marijuana. The state Legislature passed the controversial bills in a frenzy of activity last December.

Let's start with the new bill concerning abortion. 

Chad Livingood is the Lansing reporter for the Detroit News and Chris Gautz is  the Capitol correspondent for Crain's Detroit Business. 

They outlined the new law for us, which regulates abortion clinics that provide surgical abortions. 

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Michiganders evenly divided over right-to-work law

"A Michigan State University poll finds state residents about evenly divided over whether the new right-to-work law will help or hurt the economy. 43 percent of those polled say the law will help Michigan's economy, while 41 percent say it will hurt," the Associated Press reports.

Medical marijuana law changes begin today

More changes to Michigan's medical marijuana law goes into effect today. As the Associated Press reports,

"The measures define the type of doctor-patient relationship that is needed before medical marijuana use can be certified. For example, a doctor must complete a face-to-face evaluation of the patient. . . Among the many other changes is that state-issued cards given to people who have a doctor's endorsement for medical-marijuana use will be good for two years instead of one."

University of Michigan makes Final Four

The University of Michigan will move on to the Final Four in NCAA basketball. Michigan beat the University of Florida 79-59. The U of M will play Syracuse University Saturday in the national semi-final.

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The changes affect doctors, 131,000 medical marijuana patients and 27,000 caregivers, who grow the drug for patients.

These new changes were passed during the state legislature's lame-duck session last year. A super majority in the legislature approved the changes that affect the Medical Marijuana Act voters approved in 2008.

Changes for patients

Patients will have to prove they live in Michigan. They can do that through state ID, driver’s license, or voter’s registration card. Their medical marijuana cards will be good for two years instead of one.

A Michigan medical marijuana facility is partnering with a member of the Grammy-winning rap group Bone Thugs-N-Harmony to cultivate and distribute a new strain of medical marijuana.

The Flint-based medical marijuana dispensary "The Green Oasis" and Stanley "Flesh-N-Bone" Howse say their new strain, "Phifty Caliber Kush," has a noticeable floral taste and is an effective pain reliever.

The Flint Journal's Gary Ridley broke the story and has covered this unique agreement between the rapper and Flint-area dispensary over the last few days.

The Flint-area dispensary's owner, Anthony Butler, calls the new pot strain "the best of the best."

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

More than a hundred medical marijuana patients and their supporters turned out for a rally in Jackson today.   They’re concerned that legal wrangling is getting in the way of patient care.

A month ago, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal.

The court's decision came in a case out of Mt. Pleasant.  

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Detroit closer to a state takeover

"A state takeover of Detroit has edged closer to reality, as a financial review team formally determined the city is in a fiscal crisis with no workable plan to dig out of it. State Treasurer Andy Dillon led the review. He says a 10-month-old consent agreement between the state and the city is not working," Rick Pluta reports.

State House approves bill to add more people to sex offender registry

"People convicted of crimes such as possessing child pornography and indecent exposure might soon be added to the state’s public sex offender registry. Lawmakers in the state House yesterday voted overwhelmingly in favor of the legislation," Jake Neher reports.

Bill would legalize medical marijuana distribution centers

A bill was introduced in the state House to legalize medical marijuana distribution centers in the State. This comes after the state Supreme Court recently ruled that the dispensaries violate the medical marijuana law and are illegal. As the Detroit Free Press reports,

House Bill 4271 -- titled the Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act -- would let communities decide whether to allow such centers and where they could be located.


The following is a summary of a previously recorded interview. To hear the complete segment, click the audio above.

Earlier this month, the State Supreme Court handed down a ruling that is being interpreted as making medical marijuana dispensaries illegal.

That February 8 ruling has marijuana users and the dispensaries essentially going "underground," relying on word of mouth.

Now comes a new chapter in Michigan's Medical Marijuana story.

State Representative Mike Callton, a Republican from Nashville in Southwest Michigan is sponsoring a bill that would let local communities decide whether or not to allow medical marijuana dispensaries.

His House Bill 4271 is being called "The dispensing bill".

State Representative Mike Callton joined us over the phone to tell us more about the bill and why he is supporting it.


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.

Bob Doran / Flickr

Since Michigan voters first passed the state's medical marijuana law back in 2008, there has been a lot of confusion and a lot of legal battles over just how to implement it.

During one court battle in 2010, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Peter J. O'Connell wrote this:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A Michigan lawmaker plans to quickly introduce a bill to legalize medical-marijuana shops after the state Supreme Court said they're not allowed under a 2008 law.

Republican Representative Mike Callton of Nashville, Michigan says he's concerned cancer patients and others won't have access to the drug without dispensaries.

He says many of the state's 125,000 medical-marijuana users can't grow their own and there aren't enough caregivers to grow it for them. Callton says patients will be forced to go underground to find pot.

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.

Michigan Court of Appeals
Mike Russell / Wikimedia Commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled medical marijuana users may share small amounts of pot without running afoul of state law. But that’s only if no money changes hands.

Courts have been busy filling gaps in Michigan’s medical marijuana law since it was approved by voters in 2008.

In this case, Tony Green’s defense against drug delivery charges was that he shared – without compensation -- a small amount of pot with another legally registered medical marijuana user. The appeals court said that is allowed under the Medical Marijuana Act.

The decision could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has already ruled patient-to-patient marijuana sales are illegal.

The Supreme Court is expected to issue a couple more medical marijuana decisions in the near future – including one on whether the law permits dispensaries that charge some kind of fee.

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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.

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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.

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Bill would ease restrictions for concealed pistol permits

"The state House is considering a bill that would remove a state background check requirement for  concealed pistol permits. The bill would eliminate state background checks for people who want to carry concealed pistols.  The bill would also eliminate a data base of Michigan's pistol owners, which State Police say is used to help solve crimes. If the bill passes, it would also put county sheriffs in control of the permit process, rather than county boards," Rina Miller reports.

Legislation would allow insurance companies to deny medical marijuana coverage

"Bills in the state House would let insurance companies deny coverage for medical marijuana. Employers could also refuse to reimburse medical marijuana expenses through workers compensation. Opponents of the bills say the policy would keep some patients from receiving proper and legal medical treatment. But some medical marijuana advocates support the measures. They say when Michigan voters approved the drug, they never meant to force insurers to cover it. The state Senate voted overwhelmingly to pass the bills in May," Jake Neher reports.

Bill would allow medical personnel to refuse care on religious grounds

"A bill before the state senate would allow medical personnel to refuse care based on their religious beliefs. The bill would also protect them against civil, criminal, and administrative liability. However, the bill would require medical personnel to provide medical care in an emergency, regardless of a conflict with their religious beliefs," Chris Zollars reports.

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Bills in the state House would let insurance companies deny coverage for medical marijuana.

Employers could also refuse to reimburse medical marijuana expenses through workers compensation.

Opponents of the legislation say it discriminates against a legal form of patient care.

Republican state Senator Rick Jones said many opponents of the bills simply want to abuse the system.

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A Michigan judge has ruled against the state Attorney General’s office in a series of criminal cases brought against four employees of Lansing-based medical marijuana dispensaries.

Lansing District Court Judge Hugh Clark Jr. dismissed the felony drug-dealing charges last week, saying the state’s medical marijuana law "screams for legislative clarification in numerous areas."

The Lansing State Journal has more:

The case surrounded multiple purchases of marijuana last year by four undercover police officers at HydroWorld locations on South Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West Barnes Street.

They bought about 1/8-ounce of marijuana each time.

The Attorney General’s office filed charges against the employees, saying that the undercover officers were able to purchase marijuana even though they didn’t have state-issued medical marijuana cards.

The officers, according to testimony, filled out applications for the ID cards and a doctor — without ever seeing the officers — approved them.

Clark based his ruling on a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision that said a doctor’s diagnosis serves as a defense against possession charges for someone without a medical marijuana card.

The Attorney General’s office may seek an appeal, while civil lawsuits seeking to shut down the HydroWorld locations are still pending, the Lansing State Journal reports.

- Jordan Wyant, Michigan Radio Newsroom

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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
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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.

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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.

Stateside: That status of Michigan's medical marijuana law

Oct 31, 2012
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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.

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No more Senate candidate debates

"It appears there will be no debate between Senator Debbie Stabenow and former Congressman Pete Hoekstra. Stabenow called off talks to schedule the debates, saying her opponent won't negotiate in good faith. Hoestra says Stabenow is afraid to debate him. Senate candidates usually hold at least two debates. One debate has traditionally been held at the Detroit Economic Club. Hoekstra says the sticking point was holding debates in a medium that lots of voters could see. Hoekstra says he wanted debates on major TV networks," Tracy Samilton reports.

Meningitis cases continue to rise in Michigan

"There’s been a big jump in the number of people in Michigan affected by that national fungal meningitis outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control says 39 people in Michigan have contracted fungal meningitis from tainted steroid injections. Just Wednesday there were only 28 confirmed cases in Michigan. Three Michigan women have died since receiving the injections which were intended to treat back pain," Steve Carmody reports.

Medical Marijuana discussed in Michigan Supreme Court

"The Michigan Supreme Court will decide whether the state’s medical marijuana law allows dispensaries and growing cooperatives. The court heard arguments in two medical marijuana cases today Thursday. Prosecutors say patients have to either grow their own, or get it from a licensed caregiver. Prosecutors say patients have to either grow their own, or get it from a licensed caregiver. The operators of a marijuana dispensary are challenging the county’s decision to shut down their operation. A man who ran a growing cooperative is also trying to fend off a charge that he exceeded the 12-plant limit in the law. The court is expected to rule in coming months. In the meantime, the Legislature is also looking at adding some definition to the medical marijuana law that was approved by voters in 2008," Rick Pluta reports.

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The future of medical marijuana dispensaries and growing cooperatives are on the line with two cases before the Michigan Supreme Court. The court heard arguments on those cases Thursday.

Isabella County Prosecutor Risa Scully said the medical marijuana act does not allow dispensaries where patients can share marijuana with each other.

“The act clearly delineates two methods in which a qualified patient may obtain their marijuana—they may grow it themselves or they may designate a caregiver to grow it for them,” Scully said.

The Michigan Supreme Court opens its 2012 session this week.
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The Michigan Supreme Court formally opens its 2012 session this week.

Its first cases deal with no-fault insurance benefits, Michigan’s open meetings law, and medical marijuana.      

The first arguments of the court’s session will be on the case of a woman who wants her auto no-fault coverage to pay for her treatments for depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

She was diagnosed after witnessing her son’s death in a motorcycle accident. She was following him in her car when he was struck by another vehicle.

Rina Miller talks with Michigan Radio's political analyst Jack Lessenberry this week about the ballot proposals that were approved, the results of the special primary in Michigan's 11th congressional district and what happens now, and the medical marijuana debate in the Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming.