medical marijuana

the Equinest / flickr

The Drug Enforcement Agency is raiding some Detroit area medical marijuana dispensaries. The DEA says it is working with state and county officials on the raids. They would not comment further on what they say is an ongoing investigation.

Matthew Abel is a lawyer who works on marijuana cases. He says federal enforcement of marijuana laws seems to be increasing.

"The federal memo had said that generally the federal government would stay out of prosecuting medical marijuana patients as long as those operations were in full compliance with state law."

Earlier this week, a Saginaw area doctor was indicted on federal drug charges for aiding marijuana distribution. More details of the DEA’s most recent raid will be coming throughout the week.

(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?

Kevin Connors / MorgueFile

The Michigan Supreme Court may soon hear its first case on the state’s medical marijuana law.

Larry King of Owosso has a medical marijuana license from the state.  He was charged with a felony by the Shiawassee County prosecutor for growing marijuana in a locked dog kennel that did not have a roof. The Circuit Court dismissed the case, but the Court of Appeals reinstated the felony charges.

Dan Korobkin is an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan. He says the prosecution shouldn’t charge King with a felony because King is legally allowed to grow marijuana:

“Instead of simply telling Mr. King that he needed to move his plants inside, or put a roof over it, they’re now prosecuting him on felony drug charges for the same offense that he would be charged with if he never had any medical marijuana card at all.”

Korobkin said Michigan voters approved the medical marijuana act to protect patients that were approved to use marijuana for medical reasons.

“We’re representing him because the prosecution of a medical marijuana patient who is complying with the law is a gross injustice and thoroughly undermines the intent of the voters in passing the Medical Marijuana Act."

Craig Finlay / Creative Commons

Michigan’s medical marijuana law allows people to use the drug, but motor vehicle laws forbid driving with any marijuana in your system. The legal battle could head to the State Court of Appeals.

Rodney Koon was pulled over for speeding a little over a year ago. Officers in Traverse City found a pipe in his pocket so he showed them his medical marijuana card. The Traverse City Eagle-Record says Koon was charged with driving under the influence of a schedule one controlled substance (others include ecstasy, heroin, and LSD) after a drug test revealed he had marijuana in his system.

A county judge ruled the state’s medical marijuana law protects Koon from prosecution. He said prosecutors need to have more solid evidence a driver is impaired while driving. State driving laws say people can’t drive with even a trace amount of schedule one controlled substances in their system.  

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette is supporting the Grand Traverse County Prosecutor’s appeal to the State Court of Appeals. He says Koon isn’t “being prosecuted for using marijuana, but for driving shortly after using it.”

Dominic Simpson / flickr

There are still some open questions about how the state will implement its two year old Medical Marijuana law.

The state has not said how dispensaries of the drug should be regulated so some cities allow the dispensaries and others do not.

These differences have put a few cities in court. Advocates say the state is missing an opportunity by not regulating the dispensaries.

Karen O’Keefe is with the Marijuana Policy Project, a supporter of the original law.

 

"States that have regulated dispensing, a lot of them subject medical marijuana to sales tax. Some of them also have modest business taxes and there are fees. So in addition to helping patients have access and clearing up some of the confusion that localities are facing it would help the state financially."

 

Groups on both sides of the issue plan to continue to push the state to weigh in on the issue this year.

-Sarah Alvarez, Michigan Radio Newsroom

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Joseph Cassias once stocked shelves at the Walmart in Battle Creek. He was fired after he tested positive for marijuana. Cassias has an inoperable brain tumor and qualifies as a patient under Michigan’s medical marijuana act.

Joe Gratz / Flickr

Michigan Radio's Laura Weber reports that the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled against growing medical marijuana plants in partially-exposed outdoor enclosures, setting a new precedent in Michigan’s medical marijuana debate. From the news spot:

A lower court had dismissed charges against an Owasso resident and medical marijuana card holder. But the Court of Appeals overturned that dismissal, and two of the three judges say the enclosure did not meet the standards set in the new law.

The medical marijuana law was approved by voters in 2008. Many lawmakers have said the law is too unrestricted and needs further clarification.

Clarification--and clarity--is an ongoing problem for medical marijuana advocates and critics in Michigan. John McKenna Rosevear wrote an article in November for arborweb.com which looks at some of the uncertainties surrounding medical marijuana. He describes Ann Arbor as a "Wild West" of in-plain-sight dispencaries and access:

The new frontier opened when voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008 (earlier laws enshrined the alternative spelling). The act protects people with "debilitating medical conditions" from prosecution for possessing or using marijuana, and sets what looked like tight controls on its production and distribution: "patients" can raise up to twelve hemp plants for their own use, or delegate the growing to a designated "caregiver."

The law says nothing about buying or selling. Yet by the time the Ann Arbor City Council hastily enacted a moratorium in August, eight businesses dispensing marijuana had already opened in the city. Anyone with a physician's recommendation can now walk in, join a "club," and walk out with up to 2.5 ounces of Blueberry Haze or White Widow--or "medibles" like marijuana brownies and rainbow-colored lollipops dosed with marijuana extract.

Roseyear's article goes on to describe how medical marijuana works--what the rules are, what kind of people are buying and who (he gets pretty specific) is selling--in Ann Arbor.

How is it affecting the rest of Michigan? What do these issues look like where you live?

-Brian Short

Neeta Lind / Flickr

A Royal Oak man is suing the city over its medical marijuana restrictions, which took effect this week.

Adam Leslie Brook is a cancer patient in chronic pain who’s certified to use the drug under Michigan’s medical marijuana law. The law allows Brook to grow up to 12 plants at his home. But Brook’s attorney, Joseph Niskar, says Royal Oak’s new zoning rules bar him from doing that:

(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.

Neeta Lind / Creative Commons

Michigan’s Department of Community Health is refusing to voluntarily turn over the records of 7 medical marijuana patients to the federal government. The federal government is now taking the state to court to get them.

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.

Every Wednesday, Morning Edition Host Christina Shockley sits down with Michigan Radio Senior Political Analyst Jack Lessenberry to get his take on recent political news from across the state. Today, the conversation begins by focusing on Governor Granholm's expression of support for President Obama's recent compromise with Republicans. On Tuesday, Obama agreed to extend Bush-era tax cuts for all taxpayers in exchange for an extension of unemployment benefits.

Wyoming medical marijuana
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A Grand Rapid’s suburb is the latest city to adopt a ban on medical marijuana. Wyoming City Council voted unanimously in favor of local laws that reflect federal rules governing marijuana over the state’s new laws allowing medicinal use.

Mayor Jack Poll, who is also a pharmacist, says they would like to see medical marijuana dispensed as any other drug for the safety of the patient and the city’s neighborhoods.

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

A Grand Rapids suburb will consider a ban on the state’s new medical marijuana law Monday night. Their decision comes days after the ACLU announced they’re taking three Detroit suburbs to court over similar bans.

Wyoming City Council will consider medical marijuana regulations that are similar to rules passed by Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Birmingham. Those cities are being sued by the ACLU on behalf of a medical marijuana patient with multiple sclerosis.

Attorney and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek lives in Wyoming. He is also considering legal action if city council adopts the rules. He has been in talks with the ACLU about taking up his case. Officials with the ACLU confirm that but say it’s too soon to say if they will.

Wyoming’s City Council unanimously favored an early version of the ban last month. They have safety concerns when it comes to distributing medical marijuana. Under the new rules, the city would follow federal law over state laws about marijuana. Mayor Jack Poll says he expects final approval despite pending court cases.

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:

John Ter Beek has 12 plants in his grow room.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A medical marijuana patient and attorney is filing suit against a west Michigan city set to ban portions of the state's new medical marijuana law.

The city of Wyoming is poised to adopt a ban on growing medical marijuana next month through zoning regulations. If it does, it would join about 30 other Michigan cities with similar rules.

Attorney and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek spent about $3,000 to create his small grow room for 12 plants. It's in the basement of his modest two-story home in Wyoming. He intends to keep it.

Joseph Casias with his ACLU attorneys after Friday's hearing in Grand Rapids.
Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments today in the case filed by a medical marijuana patient who was fired from Wal-Mart in Battle Creek.

(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.

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