Attorney General: Police can seize medical marijuana
Here's a solution, DON'T TAKE OUR DAMN MEDICINE. GROW YOUR OWN. -UA
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.
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.
Appeals court: Medical marijuana users must have I.D. to grow plants
With their ruling in a Montmorency County case, appellate judges upheld a Circuit Court decision that Brian Bebout Reed could be tried for manufacture of marijuana even though he’d gotten his user's card.
According to court records, Reed, who had chronic back problems from a degenerative disc disease, was trying to find a doctor to approve marijuana use in August 2009 when a narcotics team spotted six plants growing on his property.
Later that month, he got a doctor’s certification and received his user’s card in October. Ten days after he got his card, he was arrested for growing the marijuana.
He argued the charges should be dismissed because he’d become a registered user before his arrest.
The appellate court rejected that position: “It would qualify as absurd if it were possible to assert the …affirmative defense by obtaining a physician’s statement after the crime has been committed but before an arrest has been made.”
Without the card at the time of the alleged crime, there is no immunity "from arrest, prosecution, or penalty,” the court said.
Last week, the appellate court outlawed retail sales at marijuana dispensaries. In that case, the court ruled that a dispensary's business model of charging clients a fee to store marijuana that could be sold to any registered patient was illegal.
Robert Townsend: End fear of medical marijuana
The world could definitely use a few more Dr. Bobs......Any Releafers in Michigan know Dr. Bob?....-UA
I am known as Dr. Bob throughout Northern Michigan, my practice certifies patients to use medical marijuana, and I want the state to put me out of a job.
To do that, leaders need to look at the reasons marijuana certification clinics like mine exist and work to remove those reasons while respecting the wishes of 63 percent of Michigan voters. Some 3.2 million Michigan residents voted for the MMMA, yet rather than respect their will, leaders have, at nearly every opportunity, sought to throw up roadblocks to its implementation.
The latest effort is a group of bills sponsored by the likes of Sen. Rick Jones and Rep. John Walsh designed to hamper patients and gut the act, rather than ease access for patients as the MMMA and the people intended.
Patients cannot go to their primary care doctors and get a certification, regardless of how much they want one and how well qualified under the act they are. In most cases they are chronically ill, middle-aged folks who have been using marijuana for years and want to take the step to become legal. They view marijuana as a natural and benign alternative to prescription narcotics such as OxyContin or Vicodin — medications that damage their livers and turn them into zombies.
This statement is backed by the fact that only one in 15 Michigan physicians have written even one certification for marijuana. Most are written by 55 physicians such as me who are cannabis specialists. Hospital systems and practices for the most part refuse to let their physicians write certifications for their patients.
When these patients go to certification clinics to get the card their doctor will not or cannot issue, they face having their pain medications withheld to punish their choice or are simply discharged from the practice. “Do no harm” does not involve withholding needed care.
Why would physicians treat patients that way? The answer is simple, fear. Fear of the Drug Enforcement Administration, fear of the attorney general, fear of their employers. They feel free to use marijuana as an excuse to discharge patients, perhaps to satisfy liability lawyers or insurance carriers. Federal law is frequently cited as a reason, despite the fact the feds made it clear they are not interested in prosecuting patients that follow state marijuana laws. To this day, the DEA refuses to acknowledge the medical use of marijuana despite embracing Marinol and extracts created by pharmaceutical companies with the same active ingredients.
Rather than restrict patients, gut the act and in general try and obstruct the process as much as possible, government should listen to the voters and help suffering patients obtain medication. Require doctors to write certifications on demand for their qualified patients. It is a health care choice, and patients should not feel afraid to discuss it with their physicians. Do not allow physicians to discharge or cut off patients for getting a card. Take away the fear and there will be no need for certification clinics such as mine.
Dr. Robert Townsend is a physician who certifies medical marijuana patients. He lives in Clare.
Home-based pot growers face burning issue
Fire officials say grow lamps can overload electrical circuits
Who can you trust these days? Caregivers to do the right thing? Electricians that can keep quiet? Makes me wanna move west......-UA
Charles E. Ramirez/ The Detroit News 6/27
Richmond— Michigan's medical marijuana law appears to be sparking more than just political fires.
The law also has created a booming cottage industry of marijuana growers, but some of these would-be green thumbs are causing house fires by overloading electrical systems with grow lamps and other devices, experts say.
"Grow lamps can be a tremendous load on (a home's) electrical service," said Brian Batten, vice president of the Michigan Fire Inspectors Society. The nearly 600-member group represents the state's fire inspectors, provides education and monitors fire code changes.
"Most people who are growing medical marijuana … if they do it right and they do it safely, they'll be fine," said Batten, who is also the Ferndale fire marshal.
"But they have to make sure their home's electrical system can handle the load."
In April, Macomb Township's Fire Department responded to a fire in a subdivision near 22 Mile and Hayes. Firefighters found marijuana plants and a grow operation in the home's basement. Township Fire Chief Robert Phillips said the cause of the fire was faulty wiring.
Last year, 145 out of 14,918 fires in Michigan were determined to have been caused by an electrical problem, according to the state's Bureau of Fire Services in Lansing.
The agency doesn't track or keep statistics on fires started by grow lamps or other electrical devices, said Michigan Fire Marshal Ronald Farr. Still, it happens enough that Batten said he now includes the topic in his lectures and seminars for other public safety officials.
In 2008, Michigan voters approved a law that allows medical patients suffering from certain conditions to legally consume marijuana after registering with the state. Patients must provide written proof of their condition from a doctor.
Caregivers can grow pot
Under the law, state licensed caregivers can provide or grow marijuana for a qualifying patient who is too ill to grow his own. Caregivers can provide each of their patients with up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana, according to the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
In addition, caregivers can grow up to 12 marijuana plants per patient, and each caregiver can have up to five patients.
Many growers prefer to cultivate the plants indoors. Some use a soil-free process called hydroponics. With or without soil, raising plants indoors enables a grower to be independent of Mother Nature.
To get maximum yield, indoor growers use lamps to simulate daylight. In hydroponics, they also use devices such as pumps to move nutrients to roots, fans and blowers to circulate air, machines that generate carbon dioxide, air scrubbers to eliminate odors and air conditioners to regulate the temperature.
"It can get quite sophisticated," said Walter Bobik, owner of Richmond Hydroponics Home Supply in Richmond. "And of course, there's a right way and a wrong way to grow."
The wrong way is to plug too many lamps and other growth-promoting devices into a home's electrical system, Bobik said.
"Some of the lamps are 1,000 watts," he said. "People will put a bunch of the lamps together and plug them into an extension cord and plug that into a single outlet."
Unfortunately, after that a fire usually ignites, Batten said.
Overloads not only concern
There are other safety concerns, too, including excess carbon dioxide, improper duct work and incidents of electricity theft.
While carbon dioxide is good for plants, too much of it in a home displaces the oxygen, and people in it can suffocate, Batten said. Air ducts that aren't hung properly or securely can ensnare firefighters during a rescue.
And unscrupulous growers who steal electricity put themselves and others at risk. "Firefighters responding to a fire at a home will turn off the power before they go in," Batten said. "If someone has spliced into another wire to get more electricity to grow plants, firefighters may not know about it and go into a structure that still has power."
John Austerberry, a DTE Energy spokesman, said the Detroit-based utility is frequently forced to deal with electrical theft for illegal marijuana growing operations. One such operation the company came across was using about $1,200 worth of electricity a month, which is four to six times more than the average home in the area uses, he said.
Proponents of medical marijuana say growers must be cautious if they're going to cultivate the plants in homes.
"Safety is always an issue," said Michael Komorn, a Southfield lawyer and board member of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, which advocates for patients, caregivers and health providers. "Most caregivers want to comply with the state's laws," he said. "And they want to make sure their grow rooms are set up to be safe."
Big changes for med. marijuana users
Federal Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr. made ruling
Thanks for nothing Judge. -UA
Federal Judge Hugh Brenneman Jr. ruled Michigan patients have no right to privacy when it comes to a federal investigation involving marijuana. In short, medical marijuana patients should not expect the information they give to the state to receive a registration card will be kept from federal investigators.
This ruling comes despite a provision in the state's Medical Marijuana Act which promises patients their information will be kept private.
The state law previously approved by voters makes it a misdemeanor for a government employee to disclose confidential information about a registered medical marijuana patient or caregiver.
That provision put state workers at odds with federal investigators who had a subpoena for information on certain patients. According the the law, those in violation could face up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000.
However, the federal law that made marijuana illegal supersedes Michigan's law, giving patients a defense in certain instances, Brenneman said.
Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette asked the court to give state workers immunity from prosecution if they were forced to violate the privacy section of the law.
Therefore, the law is void when it comes to federal investigators. According to court documents obtained by 24 Hour News 8, Brenneman said there was no need to give state workers immunity in this case.