Since the medical marijuana law was legalized in a proposition approved by Michigan voters in 2008, people have been scratching their heads. The law is overly confusing, leaving many aspects of the new medical marijuana industry in a grey area.
Its intentions were noble. The law allows for a person with a chronic illness to apply for a medical marijuana card in order to obtain marijuana and use it to ease their pain. In some cases, patients feel marijuana is the most effective medicine for their condition. A person with a medical marijuana card is allowed to grow up to 12 plants for their own use and possess 2.5 ounces, or enlist a caregiver to grow it for them. The caregiver is allowed to provide for five patients, growing up to 12 plants for each of them.
From there, things become confused. In March, a district judge in the Detroit suburb of Dearborn named Mark Somers ruled in a case that Michigan’s medical marijuana law is both illegal and trumped by federal laws, according to an article in the Associated Press. Though his decision is by no means binding outside of Dearborn, the decision sheds light on a growing dissatisfaction with the law.
But just in case anyone was worried that Somers was wrong and that federal law didn’t trump state law, on April 12, Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) agents raided a medical marijuana facility in Walled Lake, Mich. Caregivers of America is a marijuana dispensary, a facility patients can go to find caregivers to grow pot for them. It’s also a head shop.
Though the dispensary was a part of a major four-location bust of one of the people associated with Caregivers of America, the raid clearly shows us once again that federal law supersedes state law.
By many accounts, the Caregivers of America were perfectly law-abiding under Michigan law. So even when people are perfectly law-abiding Michigan citizens, there’s still federal law to worry about.
If you have a medical marijuana card, you could go to a dispensary for your medicine needs – but right now, the legality of dispensaries under state law are still being debated. Even if it’s decided they are legal, they aren’t under federal law, so there’s always the chance their caregiver (or dealer, depending on which lens we’re viewing this through) could get busted while trying to grow their much-needed medicine. They could grow it themselves, but you’d probably have trouble.
There’s one loophole which does benefit the medical marijuana cardholder –– in their great wisdom, someone forgot to put something in there about taxation. As such, everyone’s pretty sure you don’t have to pay tax on medical marijuana.
People who have the medical card are supposed to have serious medical conditions and many might not be experienced with buying marijuana illegally or growing it. If they wanted to turn to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP), the organization which registers patients with cards, for help with growing marijuana, buying seeds or finding a caregiver, the MMMP would refuse them.
According to the MMMP FAQ page, “The MMMP is not a resource for the growing process and does not have information to give to patients.” As such, the MMMP forces patients to go to the Internet, to dealers or to pseudo-legal dispensaries for their marijuana growing or buying needs.
Imagine you get perscribed Adderrall or Prozac and then are told that your doctor cannot tell you where to get it or where to go to find the answers to your questions. This would not only be irresponsible, it would border on outright denying treatment.
In fact, the MMMP and the law is so out of touch with the reality of the situation, they don’t even spell marijuana with a “j.” Instead, they spell it with an “h.” In the MMMP’s FAQ page, the reason for the “h” is this: “Marihuana is one of two acceptable spellings in the dictionary.” It goes on to say the spelling is consistent with previous wording in Michigan laws.
Let’s get real here for a moment. The state believes that “marihuana” is a very powerful and much-needed medicine for some patients. Meanwhile, everyone is pretending that marijuana is a terrible thing for someone to do unless they have a serious condition. Everyone acts as though they have not smoked the product themselves. Many of us – I’d venture to say most – have tried pot at least once.
This law needs clarification. People who need this as medicine need to know how to procure it. They need to know what protection they have under the law. It’s outrageous that the loopholes and greyness of this law have been allowed to continue.