Michigan Medical Marijuana Act

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Michigan police are weighing in on state proposals to officially recognize – and regulate – medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Michigan House already passed a bill to create a new framework for who grows, transports, and sells marijuana to these storefronts – sometimes called a “seed-to-sale” tracking system.

The Detroit City Council is expected to vote on a medical pot shop ordinance in the coming weeks.

It would create zoning, licensing, and inspection guidelines for marijuana dispensaries.

The ordinance has been introduced, and is going through the Council's committee process.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

Patients with autism and Parkinson’s disease could use medical marijuana under a new effort to overhaul the system in Michigan.

The Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC) announced this week it will push lawmakers to make the state’s medical marijuana system safer and more accessible to qualified patients.

A button promoting marijuana legalization.
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Everything you ever wanted to know about marijuana in Michigan was discussed this week on Stateside.

From the politics - to the business - to the potential downsides.

We sat down with reporters, business owners, and law enforcement to learn more about the topic.

Here's a quick rundown of what we covered:

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More than 50% of Michigan voters say in recent polls that they support marijuana legalization.

Two groups hope to put legalization proposals on the November 2016 ballot.

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Getting high in Michigan has certainly changed over the past few years.

Voters legalized marijuana for medical purposes in Michigan in 2008. Soon, it could be legal just for fun.

A number of groups seeking to legalize cannabis in Michigan are working to put ballot proposals on the 2016 ballot.

Medical Marijuana
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The state is holding a public hearing Wednesday on a request to add autism to the list of conditions that qualify for medical marijuana. 

Lisa Smith of Van Buren Township filed the request to add the disorder to the list.

Smith said her autistic son's severe behavior stopped after taking medical marijuana orally to treat a different condition.

Colleen Allen, president of the Autism Alliance of Michigan, said alternative treatments for the disorder require more study.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

LANSING, Mich. (AP) - Confusion surrounding the legality of marijuana dispensaries and non-smokable forms of the drug are prompting lawmakers to propose changes to Michigan's 5-year-old law that legalized marijuana for medical use.

Bipartisan legislation would allow for "provisioning centers" where patients with a state-issued medical marijuana card could obtain marijuana.

Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

The state Senate may vote in the next day or so on major changes to Michigan’s medical marijuana law.

The bills would create a framework for licensing dispensaries and regulating edible forms of marijuana. 

Critics say the legislation is too vague.  

“I think it’s the equivalent of Obamacare in terms of not being vetted properly,” says Terrence Jungel, with the Michigan Sheriff’s' Association. 

But supporters say the legislation has been under development for years and is not being rushed through in the final days of the Legislature’s lame-duck session.

State Capitol
Steve Carmody / Michigan Radio

It looks like a decision about whether to ease restrictions on medical marijuana will come down to the final days of the state Legislature’s 2014 session.

The state Senate has been debating for almost a year whether to allow dispensaries and edible forms of medical marijuana in Michigan.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, says he wants to pass House Bills 4271 and 5104 in December. But he says some groups are still concerned the legislation could lead to more illegal pot sales.




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.

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.

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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. 

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.

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

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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DIA is being appraised

Christie's Appraisals, a New York-based International auction house, says it has agreed to appraise some city-owned pieces in the Detroit Institute of Arts. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr has said the art valuations are a necessary part of the debt restructuring and don't "portent a sale of any asset."

Board meeting to discuss Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act

A state panel will meet this afternoon to consider whether new health conditions should be covered under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. A previous board 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. Some advocates question whether the new board risks the same fate because it doesn’t include proper representation from the medical community. The state says it’s working to fix the make-up of the panel, Michigan Public Radio's Jake Neher reports.

Raising awareness of petroleum coke in Detroit

A round table discussion is scheduled in Detroit this morning to raise awareness of petroleum coke piled and stored along the Detroit River. U.S. Representative Gary Peters is expected to discuss his plans to ensure that such storage minimizes risk of dust and water contamination. The Bloomfield Township Democrat has introduced legislation calling for a federal study of health and environmental effects of open air storage of the material, known as pet coke, the Associated Press reports.

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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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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."

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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.

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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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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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.

Neeta Lind / Flickr

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

Lindsey Smith / Michigan Radio

Michigan’s Court of Appeals has struck down a city ordinance banning medical marijuana. Supporters of the voter approved medical marijuana law are calling it a huge victory.

The Grand Rapids suburb of Wyoming is one of several Michigan cities or townships that have restricted the medical marijuana act voters passed in 2008.

Wyoming resident and medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek sued the city in 2010. Shortly after the ACLU joined the case.

(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.