Mi: Court shows need to fix state pot law

mapinc / 8/30/2011 / Source: Times Herald

Is it really so difficult to fix a state law? Lansing has had more than two years to iron out the bugs in Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act, but state lawmakers have failed to deliver.

A majority of Michigan’s voters approved the law in 2008 with the best intentions. With the drug’s ability to ease chronic pain or reverse the effects of glaucoma and other medical conditions, making it legally available for those purposes made good sense.

But the law’s lack of clarity — who could sell marijuana, where the drug could be sold and who was eligible to buy it — was a disservice to the people who legitimately need it and an indictment of state lawmakers who should have fixed those problems.

Last week, the Michigan Court of Appeals weighed in. The panel ruled dispensaries in which patients sell marijuana to other patients cannot operate.

That effectively closes hundreds of Compassionate Care Centers and similar businesses that sprung up after the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act became law. It also leaves marijuana users without a legal source.

Now that the appellate court confirmed the law doesn’t work, the Legislature should revamp it.

A package of eight bills Republican lawmakers introduced this month clearly meet law enforcement concerns. Patient-to-patient sales of the drug would be outlawed; police could access the state’s medical marijuana patient registry; dispensaries would be subject to zoning guidelines; and a physician only could prescribe the drug to patients who are part of his or her practice.

Of those reforms, the zoning regulations have the most promise. The prescription requirements and sharing the marijuana patient registry with law enforcement could raise patient privacy concerns protected by the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

The medical marijuana law is supposed to make it legal and easy for patients to acquire the drug. This new legislation does little to meet that need.

Limited legalization of marijuana does come with the risk of criminal activity, and the law’s reforms should ensure the use of medical marijuana has reasonable safeguards.

There also must be reasonable guidelines to allow patients to obtain marijuana.

The law’s drawbacks have been well-known for some time. State lawmakers must come up with reforms that clarify the law without penalizing the people it was created to help.

MAP posted-by: Richard R Smith Jr.