Medical Marijuana Law and Policy in Michigan and Other States

There has never been any medical record of marijuana ever causing a single death in the United States. It also is well documented that cannabis helps provide patients suffering from HIV, MS, cancer, and other diseases, relief from the pain of their often deadly illnesses. This has been the cornerstone of the surge to legalize medical marijuana usage across the country.

Seventeen states and the District of Columbia currently have laws legalizing marijuana for medical use. Among them is Michigan, which approved the “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act” on November 4, 2008. Michigan’s list of approved conditions for using medical marijuana include cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease, Alzheimer’s and other specific medical conditions. Under the law, possession is limited to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana and twelve plants that are in a locked and enclosed area. There is a $100 fee to obtain a new or renewal registration card for patients with the approved conditions. Medicaid patients only have to pay $25.

Some of the other states that enacted laws legalizing marijuana for medicinal purposes include California, Colorado, Connecticut, Maine, Montana, Nevada, Oregon and Washington.

The legalization of medical marijuana has resulted in the explosion of the number of dispensaries, especially in Colorado where there are more than 88,000 card carrying residents. California has also seen dramatic growth in the number of dispensaries sprouting up.

The DEA feels that the decriminalization of marijuana for medicinal purposes has also resulted in opportunistic criminals becoming involved to use “dispensaries” as a store front for the distribution of marijuana. The DEA recently focused on 23 medical marijuana businesses that were operating within school zones in Washington. In California, the DEA and prosecutors continued their crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries, where over 300 pot stores were targeted. Prosecutors there state that drug dealers and suppliers use the medical pot law as a legal way to operate open and obvious sophisticated drug-trafficking and money laundering businesses. The Los Angeles City Council has voted to shut down 900 dispensaries, as the businesses have spiraled out of control.

The legalization of medical marijuana began as a good thing to benefit those patients that sorely needed relief from the symptoms of their painful diseases. Unfortunately, it has led to abuse by attempting to regulate something that such a large number of Americans use anyway. It is reminiscent of the federal governments failed Prohibition efforts in the 1920s to stop the sale and drinking of alcohol, which led to unregulated, untaxed bootleg whiskey, speakeasies, widespread organized crime and violence. Just like medicinal marijuana during Prohibition it was possible to get a prescription from a doctor for whiskey. Naturally, the number of patients seeking medicinal whiskey grew exponentially as well as the number of doctors who wrote the prescriptions and the growing number of drug stores that filled them without asking any questions.

So is this allowing medical marihuana a good thing in the State of Michigan? Should we simply legalize it, regulate it, tax it and make it apart of our allowable social culture similar to alcohol? You decide.

The fact is that partially legalizing a banned substance, such as marijuana, for limited use is fraught with temptation that can invariably lead to abuse. As a Michigan attorney who has been a prosecutor and a criminal defense lawyer for over 20 years, I feel that while the idea behind medical marijuana was justified and well intentioned, like Prohibition, it remains an open invitation for criminal organizations to take over. The only real solution is to legalize marijuana entirely, reap the economic benefits that go along with it, and remove organized crime from the equation.

Scott Weinberg is a Detroit criminal defense attorney who is recognized for handling high profile cases and held in high esteem by the judiciary and his peers. He is also a sought after expert commentator and has his own show, “Weinberg On The Law.”

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