Michigan Medical Marijuana Patients, Dispensaries & Growers Are Losing Their Freedoms

Michigan’s medical marijuana freedoms are slowly but surely being taken away by politicians from both major political parties, by police and prosecutors, and by the ultra-conservative Attorney General Bill Schuette.

We passed our medical marijuana law in 2008 and it was a good law that had a few flaws. One flaw was that it allowed you 12 plants, but only 2.5 ounces of dried marijuana. You can see the obvious disconnect: you would have to be a very ineffective marijuana grower if you only harvested 2.5 ounces from 12 plants. What this means for marijuana growers is we have to quickly dispose of our “excess” marijuana as “overages.” And for many medical marijuana growers and users, 2.5 ounces is not enough when you want to make marijuana medibles, or have a useful collection of various marijuana strains.

After the law passed, the medical marijuana community made a wish list: We wish the law had not specified a maximum amount of marijuana we could possess, and we wish the law would have explicitly stated that medical marijuana dispensaries, and for-profit marijuana sales, were totally legal. We wish the law had specifically prohibited laws that make it a DUI crime to drive with any amount of THC in your bloodstream.

We wish the law permitted unfettered outdoor growing, instead of the current situation in which your outdoor marijuana plants have to be in an enclosed locked facility and virtually invisible, or they’re illegal. But those are all wishes, and we all know how hard it is to make wishes come true. And our politicians are not about to help make our wishes come true. Instead, the medical marijuana law has been amended, court-interpreted, or otherwise changed in the wrong direction, and many marijuana people are being hurt. They don’t want our wishes to come true, but they do want to create nightmares for our marijuana community.

Since the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act passed in 2008, it has been under constant attack. Lawmakers and courts have restricted our rights and made it harder for us to get medical marijuana cards or be caregivers who grow marijuana for others. They’ve made it so that we can be busted for driving with any amount of THC in our system.

New rules that just went into effect now require us to go twice to a doctor so that we can get or renew our medical marijuana licenses. This new requirement makes it much harder for us, and more costly, especially because most of us who have “regular” doctors find that doctors refuse to provide medical marijuana recommendations that we can use to get medical marijuana licenses.

That is exactly why we appreciate “medical marijuana doctors” who often come here on a temporary basis to help out by giving recommendations. The new law means we have to go to the doctor twice instead of just once, and puts a burden on the doctor and the patients. In some areas, such as Lansing and the Upper Peninsula, it’s hard if not impossible to find medical marijuana doctors. These new rules will make it even harder and more expensive to get a doctor’s recommendation for marijuana.

Another recent change the politicians made is that a designated caregiver (a marijuana grower designated by a patient to grow the patient’s marijuana for them) is now disqualified from being a caregiver if the person has been convicted of any felony in the last 10 years, or has ever been convicted of assault.

These new rules mean many patients will have to find new caregivers, which is not an easy thing to do. And what about designated caregivers who have turned their lives around after being convicted of felonies or assault, and are now performing a compassionate, community service by growing marijuana for a sick or dying person? Now they are disqualified. Now they will lose all the investment they made in developing strains and producing marijuana for patients. This is a form of extrajudicial punishment.

Yet another bad thing that’s happened to Michigan’s marijuana laws is that the courts declared marijuana dispensaries illegal in early 2013. Yes, there’s a bill sponsored by Republican Michigan State Representative Mike Carlton that would allow local governments to decide if they want marijuana dispensaries in their cities.

The bill is unlikely to pass, but Carlton received unjustified compliments from the marijuana community, based on inaccurate reports saying his bill would “legalize marijuana dispensaries,” when actually even if marijuana dispensaries were legal, his bill gives individual communities the right to ban them by using zoning laws, or otherwise shut them down. In Jackson, Michigan and elsewhere, police and prosecutors shut down all the medical marijuana dispensaries as soon as the court ruling was announced.

If I sound discouraged and “outraged,” it’s because I am. Michigan is falling apart due to economic troubles. Many people are moving out, our property taxes are among the highest in the country, our state income tax department aggressively tries to take every penny from you that they can, Michigan’s roads suck, Detroit/Flint/Saginaw are bankrupt and crumbling, and our rural areas are dominated by white supremacist gun nuts who are even more dangerous and bizarre than Alabama rednecks. The incremental ruining of our medical marijuana law has hurt the economy by causing the closure of hydroponics stores, marijuana dispensaries, and allied industries.

Instead of working to make Michigan a more livable place, our politicians and government officials are working to take medicine away from patients.

We naively thought that voting was the key to a democracy where we make change happen peacefully. We celebrated in 2008 when we made medical marijuana legal. But we’ve since found out that here in Michigan, when it comes to medical marijuana, there really is no democracy. And if Bill Schuette and his friends in the Democrat and Republican parties have their way, there will be no medical marijuana freedom either. It will be like we never legalized medical marijuana at all.

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