Time to rally
Medicinal pot ruling rocks dispensary community; mass meeting in Lansing planned
Published: August 31, 2011
The Michigan Court of Appeals last week delivered an opinion that rocked the state's medical marijuana community.
In a 3-0 ruling, the court decreed that patient-to-patient sales are illegal. Period.
That decision, for the time being at least, effectively annihilates the foundation used by many of the estimated 300 to 400 businesses that have been providing pot to registered patients, putting dispensary owners and their employees in immediate jeopardy.
As if to put an exclamation point on that message, two Ann Arbor dispensaries were raided the day after the appellate court issued its ruling in the case State of Michigan vs. Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor, d/b/a Compassionate Apothecary, LLC.
The victory cry from state Attorney General Bill Schuette was immediate and unrestrained.
"This ruling is a huge victory for public safety and Michigan communities struggling with an invasion of pot shops near their schools, homes and churches," the Republican AG said in a press release. "Today the court echoed the concerns of law enforcement, clarifying that the law is narrowly focused to help the seriously ill, not the creation of a marijuana free-for-all."
That's one way to look at it.
Another perspective is this: The appellate court ruling is both a significant setback for patients and a massive wake-up call to everyone who thought that the medical marijuana law overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2008 was the culmination of a struggle.
There are some who believe that the appellate court erred in its ruling, and we're told that an appeal is likely.
We here at the Hits, however, have long thought that when the courts began clearing up what people on all sides of the issue have agreed are gray areas in the law, the result would be a clamping down on entities that, no matter how they try to frame the services provided, sell pot to patients.
Logic would dictate that if more than 62 percent of the people voting in an election say that they want qualified patients to have access to medicine recommended for them by a doctor, then they should be able to do so easily.
The problem is, the law they passed was deliberately vague, and the gray areas intentional. The most important thing was to get the thing passed, so that the door would open and people see that allowing medical marijuana would be an overall benefit — not just to patients, but the state as a whole.
In taking that approach, however, the law failed to explicitly provide patients with all the tools they need in order to have unfettered access to their medicine.
For example, as pointed out to us by Samantha Moffett, a business consultant with the Ambrose Law Group in Oakland County who specializes in medical marijuana-related issues, the law allows each patient to grow 12 plants, or each designated caregiver to grow up to 12 plants for each patient.
But nowhere does it say in the law how a patient or caregiver can legally acquire the seeds, clones or plants needed to get a grow operation started. In other words, someone has to be willing to break the law for a legitimate patient or caregiver to even begin trying to start growing legally.
And what happens if a crop fails for some reason — due to a power outage at a crucial time, say, or the spread of a fungus? It appears that those patients are free to acquire their medicine wherever they can, be it off Craigslist or out on the streets. But the person on the other side of that transaction does so only at the risk of being arrested.
How does that make any kind of sense?
Or what if a person needs to take their medicine by ingesting it rather than smoking it? How many people have the skill or resources to produce marijuana butter or THC-laced edibles?
The answer is, not many. And those who can't — people who were relying on dispensaries to fill their needs ... well, they are just out of luck and doomed to suffer.
Now, it can rightly be pointed out that we here at the Hits aren't exactly neutral observers when it comes to this issue. One need only glance at the ads in this paper to see that marijuana-related businesses provide a significant stream of revenue to this rag — a revenue stream that can only grow more constricted as a result of the appellate court ruling and the subsequent closure of dispensaries that's already under way as a result.
And so, there is undeniably some self-interest on our part.
On the other hand, in terms of editorial philosophy, we have been outspoken in our support of liberal drug policies long before there was any positive bottom-line effect for doing so. We voiced that support because it conforms with a broader political philosophy that maintains the government should let us decide for ourselves what does or does not go into the bodies of adults. It is also a position born of deference to facts, the most overwhelming one being that prohibition is a policy that is a dauntingly expensive failure in all respects.
In regard to the specific issue of dispensaries, we follow the issue pretty closely here, and have seen very little in the way of real problems associated with them. Despite Schuette's overheated rhetoric about an "invasion" of pot shops threatening schools and churches, the real invasions have been conducted by overzealous prosecutors and revenue-hungry police forces unwilling to accept the will of the people.
> Email Curt Guyette