On November 4th, 2008, Michigan voters passed Prop 1, the new Michigan Marijuana Law, with a vote of 63%. There are twelve other states that have legalized marijuana for medical purposes that Michigan now joins. The twelve other states with medical marijuana laws include Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Washington.
The new law was modeled after the law currently in effect in Oregon, and by law went into effect in December 2008. It must be implemented by law within 120 days. On April 6, 2009, the Michigan Department of Community Health is required to be ready to issue Registry ID Cards in compliance with the new law, and the new law will be implemented.1
Undoubtedly, the new law is not without some amount of controversy and inconsistencies. For example, registered patients can now under law buy marijuana on the street but the sellers can also be prosecuted.2 There is also nothing within the new law that states that employees who are protected under the law for using medical marijuana are protected from being fired by their employers for that use.3 To be certain, it will take some time to iron out all of the details of the new law as it begins to be implemented, but many who have been suffering chronic pain are relieved.
Some of the specifics are still unknown, such as whether authorized users can be legally evicted or live near a school zone.4 The law is designed to benefit individuals who are suffering from chronic diseases and pain. Patients who suffer from HIV, AIDs, hepatitis C, Crohn’s disease or a variety of other debilitating conditions can apply for a permit.
Some of the elements of the new law are:
- The new law is applicable only to Michigan residents who register as a patient in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program (MMMP).5
- A Medical Doctor (MD) or Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) licensed in Michigan must submit in writing that the patient has a debilitating disease or condition. The doctor will not prescribe medical marijuana. Rather, he/she will merely attest to the presence of the chronic or debilitating condition.6 The patient must have an established relationship with the doctor, and the doctor will be contacted by the MMMP.
- The patient must designate a primary caregiver if he/she is under the age of 18.7 Registered caregivers must be age 21 or over.8
- The MMMP will not provide starter plants or seeds. There is no legal place within the state of Michigan to purchase medical marijuana. However the law provides for the patient or the legal caregiver to grow up to 12 plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces.9
- Qualifying patients must register with the Michigan Department of Community Health, Bureau of Health Professions, P.O. Box 30670, Lansing, Michigan 48909.10
- The MMMP has 15 days to review the application and ensure it is complete. They have 5 days to issue the registration card.11 Registration cards are valid for one year.
- Individuals who abuse the privileges that come with the registration card, such as exceeding the legal amounts, selling the card, or operating a vehicle under the influence, will result in prosecution.12
For those with debilitating conditions, the new law can provided some much needed relief. In March 1999, a report from the National Academy of Scientists’ Institute of Medicine showed that marijuana could be very beneficial in alleviating pain from debilitating conditions, which was cited in the Michigan State legislature.13 A Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) report shows that out of 100 arrests for marijuana possession, 99 are done at the state level.14 The new law will in essence, protect seriously ill people from being arrested for the use of medical marijuana.
The new law does not protect recreational marijuana users from prosecution. However, there has been some concern noted in the media that some officials are concerned that the new law will provide pave the way for broadened abuse of the drug.15 Some, including Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), are concerned that the new law will encourage drug abuse of even harder drugs.16
Regardless of your position, the fact remains that the law has been passed and in April, will be implemented. It remains to be seen what complications will arise, or how the open issues such as how to get the marijuana seeds or whether it will be covered under any insurance, will be resolved. The likely answer to the latter is probably not.17
But for those who have been suffering under debilitating and chronic conditions, the new law will allow them to legally pursue an activity that has previously put them in legal risk.
For additional information on Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Program, visit www.michiganmedicalmarijuana.org or the Michigan Department of Community Health webpages on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program: http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-27417_51869---,00.html.