Releaf Magazine

Michigan man steers wheelchair to White House to speak for medical marijuana users

Kile, 52, drives his motorized wheelchair Friday in Maryland as he rides to Washington, D.C., hoping to tell President Barack Obama about the concerns of those using medical marijuana. / Curtis Kile Jr.
By Bill Laitner

Afflicted with cerebral palsy, 52-year-old Curtis Kile is rolling his wheelchair on a marijuana mission to the White House.

Since June 14 when he left home in Taylor, Kile has aimed his motorized chair down bumpy sidewalks and along road shoulders buzzing with traffic, across mountains and through cities and small towns, on a zigzag path from Michigan to Washington.

His goal is to tell President Barack Obama, face-to-face, that marijuana should be legalized nationwide. That would let sick people have safer, cheaper access to the drug that he feels has been vital to his health.

“The alcohol industry doesn’t want it legal, and the pharmaceutical and the tobacco companies don’t want that, because it’s going to bite into their profits.

“It’s the money that’s stopping it, and that’s wrong,” he said.

Kile plans to roll to the White House gates on the Fourth of July. But that’s just after the first family is to return from a tour of Africa, and on a day that Obama is to host a backyard birthday party for his older daughter, Malia, according to some reports.

Whether the roving Michigander gets to speak to the president, or anyone of significance, is a long shot. Obama did not reply to letters sent from Taylor months ago, Kile said. A White House press aide said only that Obama’s holiday schedule has nothing about visitors from Michigan.

“I know,” Kile said. Still, he brimmed with hope Saturday when reached by phone in Hagerstown, Md., after his fortnight of lurching along sidewalks and talking to anyone who listens.

“The younger ones, they just give us a thumbs up. But the older ones come over and say they agree with me. And ‘be safe on your journey,’ a lot of them say.”

Even if Kile’s holiday welcome is an empty street in front of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, his allies in Michigan said he is making a dent in the yielding wall against legalizing the drug.

“His story has inspired people all across the country,” said Rick Thompson, Flint-based editor of the Compassion Chronicles, an online news source for the cannabis community in Michigan. Thompson wrote about Kile last week.

“I don’t know that he’ll get to speak to the president, but there’s no denying his passion,” added Southfield attorney Michael Komorn, host of Planet Green Trees, a weekly Internet interview show about marijuana.

For years, marijuana has controlled the severe muscle spasms and other symptoms of Kile’s condition, he said. His voice cracked when he spoke by phone last week about his wish for sick Americans to have low-cost, legal access to the drug.

His on-site support crew consists of his son Curtis Kile Jr., 17, headed for Eastern Michigan University this fall. Curtis Jr. pilots their 2006 Ford Econoline van, with 417,000 miles on the odometer, while dad inches along by wheelchair nearby.

The teen usually sleeps outdoors in a small tent and throws a tarp over his father, who sleeps sitting up in his wheelchair, after suppers of hot dogs and lunches of peanut butter sandwiches, they said. On Sunday, they planned to leave Hagerstown, after spending their dwindling cash on a motel room.

Back at the home they share in Taylor, Kile’s daughter MaryAnn Kile, 23, a Wayne State University nursing student, forwards donations to the duo from people who have heard of her father’s mission.

“They really don’t have much money left. As soon as someone donates, I call them and say, ‘Hey, I just got 50 bucks.’ ” she said.



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Pot-ket book

Law Talk: Marijuana law guide fits in your pocket

Ever wondered when a marijuana seed legally becomes a plant?

Wondered how someone gets their medical marijuana?

Curious about whether having medical marijuana entitles police to search your home, car or person without a warrant?

Those answers and others may come from local attorney Bruce Alan Block who specializes in representing defendants accused of marijuana offenses.

Block has written and is selling “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act: A Guide for Patients and Caregivers.”

The pocket-sized manual outlines the law in layman’s terms and looks at the vagaries of a law considered poorly written and lacking clarity since it was passed by 63 percent of voters in 2008.
“It’s not a ‘how to’ for growing,” said Block. “I’m no advocate.”

Block said he sees clients who either use medical marijuana or are so-called caregivers and have no prior run-ins with the law but suddenly find themselves facing drug charges.

“This is just cutting through the misinformation,” Block said. “It’s amazing, the stuff you see on Internet blogs.”

Block said the law is so convoluted, even he needs a quick reference for dealing with it, which led him to write the guide for Michigan law.

“If you have this, you won’t need me,” Block said.

The law is so vague, that its enforcement is inconsistent and can change depending on where it is enforced with some prosecutors going after marijuana, medical or not, with vigor. Other counties are not so quick to prosecute those who appear to be following the law.

Block said West Michigan counties fall in the middle of the enforcement spectrum.

Assistant Prosecutor James Benison is Kent County’s medical marijuana specialist when it comes to law enforcement.

“The difficulty is people who treat the act as if it is decriminalization,” Benison said.

Benison read Block’s guide and finds it generally objective and explains the law as it currently stands.

MJ Guide (website).jpg

Of course, things could look very different by the end of 2012, The Michigan Supreme Court is looking at a pair of cases related to medical marijuana and will likely issue opinions over the summer. Those cases include what constitutes a proper area for growing the marijuana and whether cases from before the law passed in November 2008 are able to use the medical marijuana defense.

But the true game changer could come with the November ballot if advocates are able to collect the 322,000 signatures needed to put a repeal of marijuana prohibition up for a vote.

In the meantime, Block says people need to take great care because, while Michigan has a law, the federal government does not recognize the state laws and continues to prosecute where possible, even in states like California, Colorado and Vermont.

Block outlines the 10 Commandments (plus one) of medical marijuana that includes advice to put plenty of cash aside for lawyer fees, pay taxes on any monies received and “when in doubt (about what'slegal) – don’t.”

So, what constitutes a plant? A seed is not a plant, but once it sprouts – even though completely unusable—it is considered a plant.

Where does someone get their marijuana? It must be provided by a caregiver who is growing for a single patient in one area. The safest route is for the marijuana card holder to grow it themselves in the allowed amounts.

Police cannot search a house or car simply because someone has a medical marijuana permit. There is no such thing as compliance officers, and police must gain a warrant, consent from the resident or owner or have other probable cause.

Block said there is a desperate need for the law to get some definition from the legislature or the State Supreme Court, but he believes it is a coin toss whether it will happen.

The guide is available for $15 at Block’s website.

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WOW…try to wrap your mind around this one….

Attorney General: Police can seize medical marijuana


A provision of the Michigan medical marijuana law that prohibits police from seizing pot possessed by licensed medical marijuana patients is invalid because it conflicts with federal law, Attorney General Bill Schuette said in an opinion released today, one in which he warns officers who return marijuana to patients could be prosecuted as dope dealers.

“It is ‘impossible’ for state law enforcement officers to comply with their state law duty not to forfeit medical marijuana, and their federal law duty not to distribute or aid in the distribution of marijuana,” according to the opinion.

Schuette was responding to a request from state Rep. Kevin Cotter, R-Mt. Pleasant, who asked whether police were required to return marijuana to medical marijuana patients who had been arrested or detained upon their release.

An opinion from the attorney general is generally considered binding legal opinion, especially on state agencies like the Michigan State Police, unless and until it is rejected by a judge.

It is the latest in a series of moves by the attorney general to narrow the scope and application of the law, approved by Michigan voters in 2008. Schuette, then a recently-retired state appeals court judge, led the campaign in opposition to the initiative.

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“small scale arrests, are the low-hanging fruit of the drug war…”

Marijuana ballot question explored at Kalamazoo forum

The people have spoken. AGAIN. -UA

KALAMAZOO — Kevin Ruddy said he’s never smoked marijuana, usually votes Re­publican and mostly adheres to conservative principles.

He also considers himself a re­sponsible voter, and that led him to attend a meeting Mon­day hosted by supporters of a proposal to amend the Kalama­zoo’s city charter to make the possession of small amounts of marijuana the “lowest priority” for police.

He’d heard what opponents of the proposal had to say about it, and he entered the meeting undecided, wanting to know what the other side had to say. He left a supporter.

“We’ve got shrinking re­sources everywhere. I’m no hippie, but we don’t need to be focused on this,” said Ruddy, a consultant and small-business owner. “Resources are being wasted on (investigating and prosecuting) this kind of small­-scale stuff. That angers me.”

About 20 people attended the meeting at the Kalamazoo Pub­lic Library, sponsored by the Kalamazoo Coalition for Prag­matic Cannabis Laws, where attendees shared the opinion that there is large-scale sup­port for the proposed charter amendment among the city’s registered voters.

The proposal’s specific lan­guage — to go before voters on the Nov. 8 ballot — reads: “Shall the Kalamazoo City Charter be amended such that the use and/or consumption of one ounce or less of usable marijuana by adults 21 years or older is the lowest priority of law enforcement personnel?” If it passes, Kalamazoo would be the first city in the state to have such charter language.

“People don’t want their law enforcement money spent on this, plain and simple,” said Chuck Ream, an Ann Arbor resident and member of the Safer Michigan Coalition, a group that seeks to tax and reg­ulate marijuana the same way as alcohol. “They want their tax dollars going to investigate violent crime.”

Law enforcement officials have said they don’t actively investigate small amounts of marijuana and that even if the charter amendment is passed, it would not change the power Department of Public Safety officers would still have to en­force state and federal laws that ban marijuana.

John Targowski, a Kalamazoo attorney who litigates mar­ijuana- related cases, pointed out that the proposed charter amendment does not create any legal right to use marijua­na in the city. Rather, it seeks to direct law enforcement re­sources away from investigat­ing small amounts of marijuana and toward the arrest and pro­secution of criminals who truly compromise the public’s safety. Possessors and users of small amounts of marijuana are not those people, he said.

“Small-scale arrests are the low-hanging fruit of the drug war,” Targowski said.

Those arrested for small amounts of marijuana end up clogging the criminal justice system, from arrest to prosecution to potential jail time, costing taxpayers, he said.

“This is a resource allocation issue,” Targowski said.

Similar lowest-priority proposals have amended the governing documents of Seattle, Denver, Missoula, Mont., and other cities, local supporters said.

They said passing a Kalamazoo charter amendment could spark a movement across the state to similarly amend other city charters.

“Kalamazoo will be symbolic and might gear up other initiatives throughout the state,” Ream said. “Voters here could really start something.”

Ream said four other Michigan cities are being looked at for similar lowest-priority amendments in 2012, including Escanaba and Flint.

“You will be representing the whole Midwest,” he said to attendees.

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More controversy in Michigan

When a state Court of Appeals decision came down Aug. 23 prohibiting “patient-to-patient sales” of medical marijuana, a growing network of medical marijuana dispensaries were suddenly thrown into a state of limbo.

The court determined that defendants Brandon McQueen and Matthew Taylor, owners of Mt. Pleasant-based Compassionate Apothecary, were not acting within the boundaries of the 2008 Michigan Medical Marihuana Act by allowing sales of medical marijuana and retaining up to 20 percent in profit.

The appellate court opinion overturned an Isabella County Circuit Court decision and determined the defendants in fact were in violation of the Public Health Code and could be shut down as a public nuisance.

According to their attorney, however, there is no provision in the state’s Public Health Code making it illegal to sell marijuana – medical or otherwise.

“There is no offense in the PHC that mentions the words ‘sales,’” said Matthew Newburg, from Newburg Law, PLLC in Lansing.

Newburg said he and attorney Mary Chartier, from another Lansing law firm, are planning an appeal of the appellate court decision to be reviewed by the Michigan Supreme Court.

Of course, federal drug laws stipulate that marijuana remains illegal and is listed as a Schedule 1 narcotic, but Newburg said there is no state law addressing sales. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, also, does not address sales or dispensaries.

“Whether money exchanged hands as part of the dispensary’s normal operations is irrelevant,” he said.

Although the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act and the state’s Public Health Code directly conflict with one another, Newburg said the MMMA provides an exception, more or less, for licensed patients and caregivers. He said there are provisions in the Act that safeguard patients and caregivers from arrest and prosecution.

Newburg said they are gathering information for their appeal and to determine the best course of action.

In Ypsilanti, the 3rd Coast Compassion Center closed their doors for one day after the Court of Appeals decision was announced. Since then, the first medical marijuana dispensary in the state has been operating normally.

But Jamie Lowell, director for 3rd Coast, said they are still trying to determine what the court ruling means for them. The dispensary operates as a non-profit organization that accepts private donations in order to pay bills and salaries

Lowell echoed Newburg’s comments saying that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act didn’t need to address the selling of medical marijuana because it was never illegal according to state law.

“What the MMMA did carve out was an exception for the growing and manufacturing for licensed patients and caregivers,” said Lowell.


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Another blow for MMMJ

Patients, Advocates, and Friends –

Bad news. We've had another rollback for safe access - this time in Michigan. A terrible ruling just came out of a Michigan Appellate Court, stating that dispensaries are not legal under Michigan's medical cannabis law. This ruling is a scary reflection of a trend across the nation. Efforts to scale back medical cannabis laws are happening all over the place, from California to Arizona to Rhode Island.

We need to stop this backlash against medical cannabis and push safe access forward. But we need your help to make that happen. We need to raise a lot of money to be able to rise to the occasion and effectively respond to these rollbacks across the country. Every single dollar makes a difference, and when you start a recurring donation, we know we can count on that money each month, regardless of how big or small the amount is.

The ruling in Michigan says exchange of medicine for money is not legal under Michigan's law, even among patients. This means that patients must grow their own cannabis in order to legally obtain the medicine that gives them relief. Sick and dying patients often do not have the energy or resources to grow their own medicine, forcing them to use the black market and risk arrest.

ASA is dedicated to fighting back against this, and other, bad rulings. We know safe access is integral to an effective medical cannabis law. We know the fight doesn't stop after a law's been passed. We know patients need a legal distribution system to be fully protected. We'll work tirelessly to change the situation in Michigan and across the nation, but we rely on individual donations to do this.

Your generosity keeps ASA alive and growing. Every little bit helps. Can you donate $35, $50, $100, or even just $5 to help ASA push against these rollbacks?

Thank you for all you have done and will do in this fight. Until there is safe access, we are Americans for Safe Access.


Steph Sherer

Executive Director

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