Mi: The flaws in michigan’s medical marijuana act

mapinc / 8/30/2011 / By Rick Mills, Source: News-Herald

For those who enjoy a marijuana buzz every now and then, it was good while it lasted.

Over the past couple of years, Michigan had become very Californian in its approach to, and availability of, marijuana.

These were high times, indeed, with medical marijuana dispensaries popping up all over the place, and serving up some of the strongest and best pot that many local users had ever sampled.

Making it even easier, doctors were hanging shingles all over the place –willing to ask a few questions, collect a couple hundred bucks, and then swear that you were so sick you needed marijuana.

I cannot say for certain that no family physician with a long-term patient relationship ever certified a medical marijuana patient’s need.

But efforts to find such a case, by word-of-mouth or for a story, proved fruitless.

Marijuana cards, rather, were issued on a walk-in basis, often in hotel rooms or dispensaries, to patients the physician had never seen before.

Pot docs were redefining the notion of fee-for-service.

Meanwhile, folks were getting pot licenses for long-ago broken bones that ached, for football injuries that stiffened up and for a wide range of other ailments, documented or not.

Those, then, are the flaws in Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

It became obvious early on that both the distribution and diagnostic arms of the voter initiative were, at best, vague, and, at worst, ripe for fraud.

None of this is new.

It’s been known on the streets and reported in the media, and it’s the reason the marijuana act was the subject of cases snaking their way through courts across the state.

As everyone knows by now, an Isabella County case was the first to make it to the state appellate court, which issued a ruling last week effectively ending the dispensary option statewide.

Like it or not, Isabella Prosecutor Larry Burdick was correct in pursuing the suit, and the court got its ruling right.

Burdick, by the way, is not opposed to the medical use of marijuana.

In cases like these, especially those thwarting a popular voter initiative, it’s easy to see law enforcement as the bad guy.

That is not the case.

"I am not opposed to medical marijuana," Burdick wrote in email exchanges last week.

"The voters approved it and it’s here, and I think we have been pretty reasonable in this county dealing with all these ambiguities."

What troubled Burdick, and law enforcement statewide, was that the law discusses patients and primary caregivers, who are allowed to cultivate marijuana for the patient.

Our law never mentions dispensaries and never outlines a retail sales model.

"As to dispensaries, I just felt that the law absolutely did not permit them," Burdick said. "That interpretation was borne out by the Court of Appeals."

Personally, I am also not opposed to medical marijuana.

In fact, I could almost be convinced that we should legalize the stuff and spend our enforcement and treatment money elsewhere.

Few Michigan residents favor the amount of law enforcement time and money put into catching and prosecuting pot users, let alone the flyovers used to find growing crops every fall.

And disgust for the murderous drug cartels of Mexico and their impact on the Southwest United States is universal.

But if we don’t want to return to the distribution model of the past, then we need a law that allows what developed.

Overreaching on our flawed existing law was not the way to carve out a working system.

Bottom line is that the system that developed in Michigan is not the system approved by voters.

Read the law.

And if you don’t like the medical marijuana law that we have, then let’s get another one.

MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom