In the five years since Michigan voters said “yes” to medical marijuana, a lot of things have changed. Michigan was the 13th state to legalize medical use of cannabis, and now there are 18, in addition to Washington state and Colorado, where it is legal for recreational use. Medical uses for marijuana are gaining acceptance among medical professionals and the National Institute of Health has acknowledged that it may be useful in cancer therapies.
Polls show about 85 percent of Americans support medical marijuana, and a little more than 50 percent support legalization of recreational use with taxes and regulation similar to alcohol and tobacco.
Recently, Deputy Attorney General James Cole revealed the Justice Department has no plans to challenge state legalization laws as long as they have “robust regulations” to keep it away from minors and prevent it from going to states where it is not legal.
In Michigan, several of our largest cities have adopted regulations that decriminalize possession of small amounts of marijuana or roll back law enforcement directives regarding marijuana offenses. (See “Tour of Michigan” on page 22.)
However, many things have stayed the same. The latest numbers available show that, nationwide in 2012, there were about 750,000 marijuana arrests, with 87 percent of those for simple possession.
In Michigan, it has been an uphill battle, most crucially because the courts have ruled the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not condone dispensaries or transfers of medication between patients — even if no money changes hands. So patients are left with the sometimes-onerous task of growing it themselves, or getting a caregiver to grow it for them. Either way, it is a precarious manner of maintaining a steady supply of medication.
There is a provisioning center bill (HB4271) in the state legislature, and a statewide decriminalization bill (HB4623), but they are both languishing in committee and many activists expect they will die there.
Perhaps most alarming has been the attitude of politicians, law enforcement and state officials who continue their attempts to circumvent the law and vilify cannabis users. For instance, the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had to be forced to convene a panel that would review applications to add qualifying conditions for medical marijuana. So far, not one condition has been added to the registry.
The lowest blow came just two weeks ago when a referee at the state Child Protective Services office removed baby Bree from her home because her mother is a medical marijuana caregiver (see “Higher Ground,” page 70). The reasoning was that someone with a gun could break in to steal the marijuana and thus endanger the child. By that reasoning, anybody who has anything of value shouldn’t have children in their homes because someone might break in with guns. Of course, the folks who do that most often in marijuana cases are the police. And generally, they don’t just take the marijuana and leave.
Marijuana activists across the state, and around the world, still have a long way to go. The good news is that we are actually talking about it, and public opinion is with the movement. That conversation couldn’t have taken place even a generation ago. We continue that conversation with “The Chronicle Issue,” taking a look at what the legal terrain is across the state, especially some of the women who
Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former editor of Metro Times. Send comments to [email protected]