Mi: Readers make points worth considering on medical marijuana

mapinc / 8/21/2011 / By Rich Perlberg, Source: Livingston County Daily Press & Argus

I’m beginning to really like the Livingston County Daily Press & Argus Readers Panel.

They generally produce a nice, well-reasoned cross-section of thoughtful views. They apply an ample dose of common sense and reason that is too often lacking in our elected officials.

Most recently, I was struck by their response to questions we posed to them about the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which was overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2008.

You can see many of their responses on the next page. Attorney General Bill Schuette, who claims to know the minds of voters, might want to take a gander.

Last week, we published a column by Schuette, who was responding to one of our editorials. He suggested that the law was being abused by those who were using the medical excuse as a reason to move toward legalizing marijuana — or, at least, making it easier to smoke marijuana by fabricating a medical excuse.

Schuette was strongly against the referendum. He pretty much said that voters today, who were sympathetic to the seriously ill cancer patients, felt duped by the law’s enforcement. He said he was dedicated to closing loopholes and stronger enforcement.

Our Readers Panel somewhat agrees with part of Schuette’s assessment. But they come to a decidedly different conclusion.

A large share of the panel — 62 percent — agreed that many were taking advantage of the law to use marijuana for recreational purposes. But even more — 68 percent — think that the law enforcement community is too aggressive in prosecuting those who have medical marijuana cards.

Here’s the point that Schuette — and the Livingston County legal community — might want to consider. Despite the acknowledged abuses, 70 percent of our panel said they would vote for the law if it were on the ballot again.

We have about 1,500 members on our Readers Panel, and about 175 responded to this question. Obviously, this was not a scientific random sampling. But, given as most of the panel comes from readers of a daily newspaper in conservative Livingston County, it’s reasonable to believe that the respondents don’t make up some radical sector of the community.

Also, the 70 percent who would vote again for the law is pretty close to the 63 percent of Livingston County residents who approved the use of medical marijuana back in 2008.

Schuette says he somehow knows that voters intended only to help a "narrow group of seriously ill people." Thus, he vows to close loopholes and clarify the law.

He also says he will "not look the other way when people violate the few clearly defined parts of the law as is alleged in Livingston County."

Yet there is no indication that the new law has spurred an outbreak of marijuana lawlessness in Livingston County.

There is a dispensary that was shut down near Fowlerville. Its alleged offense was providing marijuana to card-holders who weren’t specifically linked to the caregivers at the business. Other than the undercover police officer who brought in a fake card, there has been no allegation that marijuana was provided to recreational users.

Then there is the Brighton Township man who was arrested because he didn’t properly segregate his marijuana from that he was growing for a friend. Both had legally acquired medical marijuana cards and there are no allegations that they were providing pot to anyone else.

Most egregiously, there is the Genoa Township man facing a possible jail sentence because he was growing the legally allowed 12 plants of marijuana outside his home. Six were for him and six were for his wife, who has stage-4 breast cancer.

Their offense? Their enclosed area for growing marijuana didn’t have a cover over it.

So rest assured, Schuette by his own words is protecting us from the wanton use of a stage-4 breast-cancer victim. Hide the women and children.

To be fair, Schuette is right that the law is poorly worded. There are abuses, including allegations that some doctors dole out marijuana permission slips as though they were Halloween candy.

So fix it. That’s the word from our Readers Panel in conservative Livingston County. Put some restrictions on unethical doctors and set some standards for getting a card. But also allow patient-to-patient transfer of marijuana. And don’t threaten jail to a man trying to care for his cancer-stricken wife.

Our state lawmakers are among the highest-paid in the nation but they can’t seem to address this issue in a commonsense manner. Meanwhile, our three Republican lawmakers — state Sen. Joe Hune, state Rep. Bill Rogers and state Rep. Cindy Denby — spend their time protecting us from nonexistent threats from the United Nations and Shariah law.

You almost wonder if they are high on something. If so, I hope it’s for medical purposes.

MAP posted-by: Matt