medical marijuana

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.

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

The Michigan Supreme Court today will consider a case that affects the 131,000 medical marijuana patients in Michigan. The case centers on where patients can grow their marijuana.   

Larry Steven King grew his medical marijuana plants in a locked dog kennel at his home in Owosso. King has a medical marijuana card. But police charged him with growing marijuana illegally. The kennel did not have roof.  

Prosecutors say that means it did not meet the state requirement for an ‘enclosed, locked facility’ . 

Attorney John Minock represents Larry King. Minock says the problem is with the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which he says is vague on what exactly an ‘enclosed, locked facility’ actually entails.   

“Larry was trying to comply with the law, as he understood it," says Minock, "The law on this area is not really clear.” The case split the lower courts. The trial court dismissed the charges, finding that the marijuana had been stored properly. But the Court of Appeals sided with prosecutors that the kennel did not meet the law’s requirements.

Eggrole / Flicker

A campaign to legalize marijuana is expected to launch an effort this week to get the question of legalization before voters this November.

Matthew Abel is an organizer with the campaign. He says he thinks most Michigan voters want to legalize marijuana.It’s pretty clear that the polls in favor of ending the drug war, especially against marijuana, go in our favor," Abel says.

Voters in Michigan approved the state’s medical marijuana law by a wide margin in 2008. Abel says the campaign to legalize marijuana does not yet have the same level of funding the medical marijuana campaign had a couple years ago. The campaign to legalize marijuana must gather more than 300,000 valid signatures by early July to get the question on the ballot.

The state Supreme Court will also hear a case this week on the rules for medical marijuana clinics.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said he believes the state’s medical marijuana law has been hijacked by people who want to legalize the drug. Schuette said he believes voters were misled by drafters of the law about its true purpose, and that’s one reason why he does not support an expansive interpretation of the act.

“We should not have nod and a wink justice,” said Schuette, adding:

“Have an honest debate about it instead of putting together a patchwork law that is so full of holes it makes a mockery of swiss cheese, and if you listen to the comments of the authors of it, it was purposefully done vague.”

Schuette opposed the medical marijuana question when it was on the ballot in 2008, and he led the campaign to reject the initiative. The attorney general has issued formal opinions restricting medical marijuana and backed efforts to close dispensaries.

Medical marijuana advocate Rick Thompson of the Michigan Association of Compassion said Schuette is wrong about the law’s supporters. Thompson calls Schuette’s comments “smoke and mirrors” that avoid a discussion about the benefits of medical marijuana. 

State Attorney General Bill Schuette has gone to court to close down three mid-Michigan marijuana dispensaries. Schuette’s lawsuits say the dispensaries are public nuisances that are operating outside Michigan’s medical marijuana act.

The dispensaries are all in Lansing and Jackson. Schuette says employees of the dispensaries illegally took money for medical marijuana card applications, and sold marijuana to undercover officers. That’s even though a Court of Appeals decision earlier this year says it is illegal to buy or sell the drug. That decision is being appealed to the state Supreme Court.

Marijuana also remains illegal under federal law, although federal prosecutors have been instructed not to pursue medical marijuana convictions.

Schuette says, right now, pretty much the only way for medical marijuana card holders to legally possess the drug is to grow it themselves, and that he supports law enforcement efforts to shut down dispensaries that are distributing marijuana.

Marijuana plant
bobdoran / Flickr

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.

Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio

A Lansing attorney believes Michigan’s Attorney General is trying to dismantle the state’s medical marijuana law.   

Thursday, Attorney General Bill Schuette issued a formal legal opinion that police officers may seize pot from medical marijuana patients. In the opinion, the Attorney General says police could face federal drug charges if they return to the marijuana to the patients.   

Attorney Eric Misterovich represents medical marijuana patients. He believes the attorney general will next try to stop the state from issuing medical marijuana permits.  

“You know, we can see where it’s going. And I’m not sure what the attorney general’s plans are, but I think this is a step…toward…invalidating the (Michigan Medical Marijuana) act as a whole," Misterovich says.

Before he was attorney general, Bill Schuette led the campaign against the 2008 state referendum on medical marijuana. Since he was elected Michigan Attorney General, Schuette has supported legal efforts to curb access to medical marijuana.

Michigan Attorney General's office

There’s a new challenge to the rights of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients.   

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette issued an opinion Thursday saying police can seize marijuana from medical marijuana patients. 

In the opinion, the attorney general also said it would be illegal for police to return the pot, even after they confirm that the patients possess a medical marijuana permit.  

Under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, a patient with a valid state issued identification card may possess up to two and a half ounces of usable marijuana. That same state law prohibits police from seizing marijuana or drug paraphernalia from authorized medical marijuana patients. 

But Attorney General Schuette said the state law conflicts with federal law on the subject of marijuana forfeiture. Schuette said federal law preempts state law. The opinion also said police could face federal drug charges if they returned the confiscated marijuana to legitimate patients.

An advocate for medical marijuana in Michigan is urging state lawmakers against over-regulation.

Tim Beck of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers says the law was designed to give local governments a lot of latitude when it comes to regulating dispensaries.

“Ann Arbor has come up with some very excellent regulations on dispensaries. Security requirements - the City of Lansing has done that. The individuals that have had problems are the individuals that have been careless,” said Beck.

Beck acknowledges there are gaps in the law.

“We couldn’t put everything in a ballot initiative,” he said. “And I will admit, okay, we deliberately did not put anything about dispensaries in the law.”

Beck believes Michigan will legalize marijuana by 2016.

The state House Judiciary Committee is expected to hold hearings later this year on legislation that could settle confusion over the medical marijuana act.

- Chelsea Hagger - Michigan Public Radio Network

user paigefiller / Flickr

Kalamazoo voters will decide next month whether to write a relaxed attitude toward marijuana use into the City Charter of the western Michigan community. The ballot proposal would direct police to make enforcement of
laws against possession of small amounts of marijuana a low priority. Supporters gathered about 2,600 signatures in order to win a spot for the charter amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot.
    

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has come out against the proposal, as have several Kalamazoo City Commission candidates.
    

user paigefiller / Flickr

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (AP) - Prosecutors in Grand Rapids can pursue drug charges against a man who is permitted to grow medical marijuana but was caught with too many plants.

The Michigan appeals court says the 88 plants seized by police a year ago were too many for Ryan Bylsma. The court on Wednesday agreed with a Kent County judge who has refused to dismiss the
case.

Bylsma is a registered caregiver for two people, which means he can grow 24 plants. But the commercial space he controlled in Grand Rapids had dozens more. Bylsma says the plants belonged to other caregivers and people permitted to use marijuana to alleviate health problems.

The appeals court says Michigan's marijuana law is strict: Bylsma can't have access to marijuana grown for others.

People injured in auto crashes would not be allowed to use their no-fault coverage to pay for medical marijuana to treat chronic pain under a bill approved by a legislative committee.

The measure is one of several proposed new restrictions to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The law was enacted by voters in 2008.

Peter Kuhnmuench is with the Insurance Institute of Michigan, which supports the measure. He says insurance coverage was not supposed to be part of the medical marijuana law.

"So I think it’s pretty clear, yes, they want to utilize this is as a medical procedure, but at the same hand, not force any carrier to cover it as a covered service."

Kuhnmuench  says the bill would not prohibit someone from buying additional coverage that might pay for medical marijuana.

Medical marijuana patients say the law should not specifically ban one treatment for people facing chronic pain from an injury.

USFWS

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Two Republican state senators say they're planning legislation that would require people to live in Michigan for one year before getting state permission to use marijuana for
medical purposes.

Sen. Tonya Schuitmaker and Sen. Rick Jones say Tuesday it's an effort to stop out-of-state marijuana growers from setting up shop in homes rented in Michigan. The proposal would join at least a dozen other bills aimed at changing the state's medical marijuana law approved by voters in 2008.

Michigan State Police say they have had instances where out-of-state residents rent homes in Michigan, then get a driver's license and a state-issued medical marijuana card.

The out-of-state residents grow pot in the rental homes and return occasionally to check on the crop, selling the drug in their home states.

Flickr/lavocado

One Michigan library wants to help clear up the confusion many people have about the legal issues concerning medical marijuana.

Flickr/Vampire Bear

A pilot with the Monroe County sheriff's office spotted many marijuana plants Saturday while flying over two corn fields in Milan Township, 60 miles west of Detroit.

Deputies counted 55 mature plants worth at least $25,000. The discovery is under investigation.

Federal drug agents from Toledo, Ohio, are also part of the case.

The owner of a Lansing medical marijuana clinic faces 90 days in jail or a 500 dollar fine for an alleged attempt to trade pot for votes in city council elections.

Shekina Pena’s clinic offered a small amount of pot or a marijuana-laced treat to medical marijuana card holders as part of a voter registration drive. At the same time, the clinic advocated for city council candidates who opposed a restrictive local medical marijuana ordinance.

John Sellek is the spokesman for state Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says the law does not allow anything of value to be offered in an effort to influence a vote.

"The voters of Michigan when they enacted the Michigan medical marijuana law, they intended that marijuana to be used for a narrow group of people who are seriously ill," said Sellek. "They did not intend for it to be used basically as a door prize to encourage somebody to do something, and that’s what they were doing in this instance."

Pena did not respond to a phone message left at her clinic. Schuette led the campaign against the 2008 statewide medical marijuana ballot question, and supports efforts to add restrictions to the voter-approved law.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Several thousand medical marijuana patients and their supporters rallied at the state Capitol today. 

The state Court of Appeals recently ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal under Michigan law.

Patient advocate Joe Cain says the courts and state officials are working to undermine the state constitutional amendment allowing medical marijuana.

"They don't care about you," said Cain. "They don't care or they would have had a plan, because you don’t take sick people’s medicine away."

Cain says the state Court of Appeals decision was politically motivated.

"The objective was to deny people safe access to their medicine. This was not a judicial decision. This was a political decision," said Cain.

The Michigan Supreme Court will soon consider several medical marijuana cases. The court's decision in those cases is expected to go a long way to determining the scope of Michigan's medical marijuana law.

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - A rally is scheduled Wednesday on the steps of the state Capitol protesting proposed changes to the state's medical marijuana law.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Association president and other speakers during the rally in Lansing are expected to discuss the law and treatment patients and caregivers have received from law enforcement. The event starts at noon.

Michigan voters in 2008 approved use of marijuana to relieve pain and other chronic ailments. About 100,000 people have state-issued cards letting them have 2.5 ounces of "usable" pot and up to 12 plants. Registered caregivers also can grow marijuana for five people.

Michigan's Appeals Court has ruled some sales at dispensaries illegal.

Changes proposed by some Michigan legislators requiring stricter doctor-patient relationships before a patient could get authorization to use the drug.

Garretttaggs55 / wikipedia commons

The Michigan Court of Appeals has rejected the legal defense of a man who got a medical marijuana card after he was busted for possession.

This the second time in two weeks the appeals court has narrowed the scope of the state’s medical marijuana law.

Last week, the appeals court ruled shops where money is exchanged for medical marijuana are illegal.

Now the court has ruled people who grow marijuana better have their state-issued medical marijuana cards in hand – getting one after a police raid is no defense against prosecution.

The court struck down the defense against marijuana charges that has been tried in several Michigan counties.

Brian Reed’s home was raided after a police drug team spotted six marijuana plants growing in his backyard.

Reed says he never got a medical marijuana card because his regular doctors work for a clinic that would lose its federal funding if they prescribed marijuana to patients.

Between the raid and when he was formally arrested and charged, Reed got a different doctor’s approval and a state-issued medical marijuana card as a treatment for chronic back pain.

Reed said that should be enough to protect from prosecution under Michigan’s medical marijuana law, which was approved by voters in 2008.

The appeals court upheld a lower court ruling and agreed a person busted for marijuana possession cannot use getting a doctor’s permission after the fact as a legal defense.

The ruling could be appealed to the state Supreme Court, which already has two other medical marijuana cases on its docket.

(courtesy of Flint Medical Dispensary)

Local county prosecutors are meeting this weekend on Mackinac Island.  This week’s appeals court ruling that medical marihuana dispensaries are illegal is a hot topic of conversation.

(Courtesy of the Michigan Attorney General's office)

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette says he'll inform the state's 83 county prosecutors about a court decision that bans the commercial sale of medical marijuana.  Schuette says the appeals court ruling empowers local authorities to shut down marijuana dispensaries.

The businesses typically allow people with medical marijuana cards to sell pot to others who also have cards.  The appeals court said Wednesday that such shops are illegal. 

user elioja / flickr http://michrad.io/1LXrdJM

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 Eljoja / Flickr

Authorities are looking into whether a Lansing medical marijuana clinic broke the law by offering free pot to customers who stop by and register to vote.

The owner of the clinic opposes Lansing’s new restrictive medical marijuana ordinance and has called for the ouster of city council members who supported the ordinance.

The Your Healthy Choices Clinic advertised on its web site that customers who stop in and register would get a half-gram of pot or a marijuana-laced snack item. 

It also encouraged people to vote against city council members who supported Lansing’s medical marijuana ordinance. Authorities say that may have put the clinic afoul of state election laws.

John Sellek is the spokesman for Attorney General Bill Schuette. He says clinics have mushroomed far beyond what Michigan voters intended when they approved the medical marijuana law in 2008.

“And they certainly didn’t plan for those pot shops to be handing out marijuana as party favors essentially for their own political, personal agenda.”

“Certainly in Michigan, it is illegal to pass out some kind of gift or a party favor to encourage someone to vote a certain way or to vote at all, and that is concerning to the attorney general.”

Schuette is looking into filing criminal charges. The clinic owner told a Lansing TV station there was no attempt to buy votes – only to get people to register.

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.
(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A medical marijuana patient in Ingham County is facing three days in jail for testing positive for marijuana. Livingston Thompson uses medical marijuana as a treatment for epilepsy.  Judge Richard Garcia ordered Thompson to stop using marijuana as part of a child custody case.    

But Thompson recently tested positive for marijuana, and the judge Tuesday ordered Thompson to be jailed for contempt for three days.  Matt Newburg is Livingston Thompson’s attorney.  Newburg plans to ask the Michigan Court of Appeals to stay the judge’s contempt order.  

 “The judge said…on the record…that he felt that (medical marijuana) card was a fraud…and it did not protect him.”   

Newburg says Michigan’s marijuana law protects medical marijuana patients from criminal and civil penalties.

Medical Marijuana

Jul 5, 2011

Three years ago, Michigan voters approved allowing marijuana to be used for medical purposes by a margin of almost two to one.

Social conservatives weren’t happy, and feared that this would lead to the back door legalization of marijuana for everyone. However, the public was overwhelmingly sympathetic to its use for medical reasons. That’s largely because there is considerable evidence that marijuana can relieve suffering from diseases including cancer, glaucoma, and a host of other ailments. Yet there were problems from the start with the medical marijuana law.

For one thing, it wasn’t passed by the legislature, as most laws are, but was placed on the ballot by citizens who collected enough signatures to put it there. Legalizing marijuana for medical patients required setting up a complex new system.

This had never been tried before in Michigan, and it’s evident that the framework needs to be tweaked.  For one thing, there are clearly a handful of unscrupulous doctors all too willing to certify people for medical marijuana use.

The Detroit Free Press reported that only fifty-five doctors have authorized medical marijuana for more than seventy percent of all those now eligible. Whatever your feelings about marijuana, the voters did not intend to effectively legalize its recreational use.

Nor could Michigan legally do that. Technically, any marijuana use is still against federal law, and Washington could, if it chose, move against any of the sixteen states that authorize medical marijuana. They haven’t, and even allowed a medical marijuana statute to be enacted in Washington, D.C.. But if Michigan or any other state were to openly act as if the legalization of medical marijuana meant we could establish a marijuana industry for all, the odds of federal intervention would become much greater.

On the other hand, it is clear that people do want marijuana to be available to those with legitimate medical conditions.

K Connors / Morguefile

Republicans in Michigan say there need to be more regulations surrounding the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

They say dispensaries, growers and many doctors are taking the law too far.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette stood next to a map of the greater Lansing area, with 84 pushpins marking locations of medical marijuana dispensaries. He says new proposed regulations would shut down most if not all of those locations.

“No more marijuana farms. No more collective grow ops. It violates that law – making that very clear.”

 Schuette says most caregivers and dispensaries undermine the needs of terminally ill patients who need marijuana treatment by pushing the limits of the law. Legislation proposed by lawmakers in the House and Senate would further regulate who could grow medicinal pot, where it could be grown, and how it could be distributed.  

They say they have not worked with the medical marijuana community to help craft the proposals yet, but they hope to get that input over the summer.

Eggrole / Flickr

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette has issued a formal opinion that says medical marijuana growers cannot have more than 12 plants. The opinion could put out of business growing cooperatives that raise pot for multiple patients. The opinion carries the force of law unless overturned by a court. State lawmakers have also rolled out bills that would put more regulations around the voter-approved law to allow marijuana for patients with terminal or chronic conditions.

Chuck Caveman Coker / Creative Commons

Republican state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said a few months ago that he did not want to deal with any major social issues – including medical marijuana regulations – until the budget was complete.

With the budget debate behind them, lawmakers are once again looking at the Medical Marijuana Act.

The Michigan Supreme Court is preparing to decide where and how marijuana plants can be grown, and the state Senate is looking at a bill that would regulate where patients could smoke marijuana.

Bills have come up for debate that would affect everything from where a person could smoke medical marijuana, to where it could be distributed and who could distribute it.

One would prevent convicted felons from becoming medical marijuana caregivers, or distributors, and the other would make it a crime to distribute medical marijuana near a church or school.

Meanwhile, medical marijuana supporters have shown up at every legislative hearing on bills that would add regulations to the law since it was approved by voters a few years ago.

They say any additional regulations would make it harder for people who need treatment to get access to medical marijuana.

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