The End of Progress?

By Mike Domek & Devyne Lloyd

In November 2008, citizens of the state of Michigan voted to allow medical marijuana. In August 2011, the Michigan Court of Appeals silenced the majority by forcing dispensaries to possibly shut their doors forever.

On August 23rd, 2011, Compassionate Apothecaries, a dispensary in Mount Pleasant, was forced to temporarily shut down after a three-judge panel ruled them to violate the state public nuisance law. A public nuisance is defined by  as “… a criminal wrong; it is an act or omission that obstructs, damages, or inconveniences the rights of the community.” The judges also ruled the dispensary violated the 2008 citizen-initiated law restricting the sale of drugs.

On August 25th, two dispensaries in Ann Arbor; a city known for decriminalizing the use of marijuana were raided by police. Police say the raids happened in conjunction with an ongoing investigation and were not related to the court’s ruling.

Ann Arbor City Attorney Stephen Postema advised other dispensaries to seek legal council on whether or not they should keep their doors open.

Fearing legal action, many dispensaries closed their doors, awaiting further word from the government. Medical marijuana patients and cardholders are outraged; why would the government do this?

Since 2008, the state of Michigan has struggled with how to control the use of medical marijuana. The state passed the decision on to the cities, most of which ignored the issue without producing too many answers. Many cities waited until as late as 2010 to pass any legislation regarding the issue.

East Lansing City Council, for example, passed an ordinance in September of 2010 stating they would not deliberate on any medical marijuana legislation until February of 2011. At the time, one ordinance had already been passed in August and three more were on the table to be discussed. The passed ordinance required prospective caregivers and dispensary owners to have a license in order to sell marijuana.

On February 15th, East Lansing City Council struck down all three proposed ordinances, once again leaving medical marijuana cardholders in the dark.

Trying to make progress, Lansing City Council passed legislation with a five-to-three vote on June 27th, 2011, allowing dispensaries in certain city districts and outlining the type of establishments’ people could use for dispensaries.

Dispensaries sprang up like weeds, especially in areas like Detroit, Ann Arbor, and the west side of Lansing. Now, dispensaries and cardholders wait in legal limbo for the Michigan legislature to decide their fate.

According to the court, “medical use of marijuana, as defined by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), does not include patient-to-patient sales of marijuana, and no other provision of the MMMA can be read to permit such sales.” In other words, the court says buying marijuana for medical purposes isn’t the same as using marijuana for medical purposes. Confusing? It sure is.

It is the current goal of lawmakers to force cardholders to get their medicine from caregivers. Under the Michigan Marihuana Act, passed in 2008, caregivers can grow and maintain plants for up to five patients. Each patients is allowed to grow 12 plants, and a caregiver is allowed to grow five patients’ plants, plus 12 of their own for a grand total of 72 plants. Lawmakers, however, want to decrease both the number of plants patients are allowed to grow and the number of patients a caregiver can manage, claiming the current law allows one person to have too many plants.

Nothing is final yet, though. Lawmakers are once again sitting on the issue while innocent patients suffer without their medications. Many patients don’t have a caregiver because dispensaries are simply better. Caregivers must be found and paperwork filled out, and then they may not always be available when needed.

With dispensaries, all the patient needs to do is walk in, get what they need and walk out. In addition, dispensaries have many creative and useful applications for the medicine, such as edibles, hash butter, and topical creams and ointments for those who do not wish to smoke.

Should they be forced to suffer because lawmakers can’t make a decision? Would you rather your sick relative take an addictive, expensive drug like Vicodin or OxyCotin, which calm the pain temporarily but don’t treat the symptoms? The government does.

In the meantime, some dispensaries have chosen to keep their doors open and service the people who need it. However, there’s no telling how much longer they’ll be allowed to help the community. A date for lawmakers’ decision is unknown at this time.


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