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Push to Fix Hazy Pot Law Grows

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Almost nobody likes the unwieldy Michigan Medical Marihuana Act -- right down to its spelling of marijuana with an "H."

The law is written without clarity on some key issues, such as what constitutes a bonafide doctor-patient relationship and the conditions under which marijuana cultivation is permitted.

Unless clarifying legislation is enacted, enforcement of the law will largely depend on what Michigan courts rule in cases brought by prosecutors and patients. Since 2009, lower courts have issued a multitude of sometimes-conflicting decisions about how much protection from prosecution the law provides for marijuana users, growers and sellers.

At the same time, the attitude of law enforcement officials toward medical marijuana varies widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

Last week, the murky law had several key state lawmakers vowing to fix it once the budget debates end, and Attorney General Bill Schuette was filing briefs with the Michigan Supreme Court and Court of Appeals in cases of patients accused of abusing the act.

"We are getting slammed from every direction," said Steve Greene, 43, of South Lyon.

Greene is a medical marijuana patient whose home was raided twice by police. He launched a weekly radio show at noon Saturday, called "High Noon," on WDTW-AM (1310) -- on which he hopes to rally political support for wider access to the drug.

Not so fast, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said.

"Our concern is the crime this is causing, and our concern is the kids," Cooper said.
Budding momentum for changing Michigan medical marijuana law

When Colorado voters passed a ballot proposal to allow medical marijuana in 2000, they unleashed problems like those sprouting in Michigan.

There were frequent police raids to arrest patients accused of being drug dealers. And Colorado had hundreds of medical marijuana sales outlets "popping up all over the state -- people in the cannabis business with no regulatory oversight," said Matt Cook, director of enforcement in the Colorado Department of Revenue.

That all changed in July 2010, when state lawmakers passed regulations. In the eight months since, the state licensed 816 sales outlets -- called dispensaries -- along with 1,237 growers and 321 "infused-products makers" of marijuana-laced foods, oils and ointments. Colorado has brought in $8.2 million in fees in that time, Cook said.

"We have a very good relationship with all law enforcement in Colorado. They told us, 'As long as people are compliant with the laws, we're not going to target them,' " he said.

In Michigan, lawmakers from both parties want to make similar repairs to the Medical Marihuana Act, which was passed by state voters in 2008.

"The voters spoke (and) the first try was not quite right, but now we can get it right," state Rep. Ellen Cogen Lipton, D-Huntington Woods, said last week. She spent the last year discussing medical marijuana with a task force of stakeholders, Lipton said.

"There are situations where people have contacted the Oakland County Sheriff's Office with questions and the answer was, 'We don't have to give you an answer because the statute is so messed up,' " she said.

Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard and other law enforcement officials have said repeatedly that the act is rife with loopholes, and Bouchard's investigators have testified that they found widespread evidence of drug dealing. Michigan's top law enforcer -- Attorney General Bill Schuette -- filed briefs Monday in cases against patients from Oakland and Isabella counties -- including one sent to the Michigan Supreme Court -- and issued a statement saying some Michiganders "are attempting to exploit the law to essentially legalize marijuana."

Yet patients bitterly complain of police harassment and the need for safe access to the drug.

"We need our rights spelled out, so law enforcement can't keep arresting people -- like me," said Adam Brook, 42, of Royal Oak. Brook -- who was prescribed marijuana for chronic back pain and thyroid cancer -- was arrested at his home in March for marijuana possession and intent to deliver the drug.

Brook served as emcee of Saturday's 40th annual Hash Bash in Ann Arbor, where thousands of pot fans gathered on the University of Michigan campus. This year, the event was to champion medical marijuana rights, Brook said.

So will a new weekly radio show called "High Noon," hosted by Steve Greene, 43, of Lyon Township. Greene grows marijuana varieties called Juicy Fruit and Super Lemon Haze in his home, which has been raided twice by police. His show launched at noon Saturday, with a live feed from the Hash Bash, on WDTW-AM (1310). "We're out to make history here" by pushing for changes in the law, Greene said.

Repealing or amending the act would require a three-quarters supermajority in both the state House and Senate, perhaps an impossible standard in the contentious Legislature.

But adding regulations to the act's existing language could be done with a simple majority, said state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge. He is chairman of the powerful Senate Judiciary Committee and has introduced one bill with plans for more in order to fix the act.

"We've had everyone from police and prosecutors to patients and medical personnel and the Michigan Municipal League meeting on this," he said. "It's not a quick process. It's going to take a few weeks" to pass the regulations, once the debates on the state budget end, he said.

"I want to ban medical marijuana bars. We don't have Vicodin bars or Oxycodone bars," he said, naming two addictive painkillers frequently used by drug abusers. "If you need (medical marijuana), you (should) take it home and consume it," said Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff.

"I do feel some urgency" about improving the medical marijuana act, said state Sen. Steve Bieda, D-Warren. Bieda is on the Senate Judiciary Committee and has conferred with Jones. He said he wants to model changes after those in Colorado.

Because Michigan's act is vague, "we have local governments creating a patchwork of ordinances, so it's really time for (state lawmakers) to act," he said.

Adding regulations would also mean licensing revenues that could cover the costs of administering the law.

Before Colorado officials issue medical marijuana business licenses, "we do very in-depth background checks. Anyone going into business must be a Colorado resident for two years -- so we don't have outsiders doing this. They have to be 21. They cannot have any felony drug convictions, and must pay license fees of $7,500-$18,000 a year," Colorado Department of Revenue spokeswoman Julie Postlethwaite said.

It's time for similar regulations in Michigan, Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said.

"We regulate alcohol. We regulate other medicines. There needs to be a significant regulatory apparatus" for medical marijuana, she said.


News Hawk- Jacob Husky 420 MAGAZINE
Source: freep.com
Author: Bill Laitner
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Website: Push to fix hazy pot law grows
 
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