Traverse City Record-Eagle

Opinion

February 26, 2014

Another View: Medical pot statute still needs work

If more tolerance for marijuana use and even its limited legalization in some states are becoming a trend, Michigan’s experience has been much more problematic. Marijuana use in the state has been a disputed practice lawmakers must clarify.

When voters approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, the state became a forerunner. The law made the drug available under physicians’ authorization to patients who need it to relieve pain and other medical conditions.

But the law encountered a range of obstacles from legal disputes about who could grow medical marijuana and where it could be sold. A Michigan Supreme Court decision has provided some clarity, but the law is far from clear.

The court unanimously ruled this month that municipalities cannot ban medical marijuana within their boundaries, a victory for supporters of the law who have battled efforts to circumvent it.

A year ago, the state’s highest court ruled that dispensaries that permit patient-to-patient medical marijuana sales are not protected by the medical pot law, a decision the law’s opponents interpreted as grounds to shut them down. Local shops quickly closed, including several in the Grand Traverse region.

“Dispensaries will have to close their doors. Sales or transfers between patients or between caregivers and patients other than their own are not permitted under the Medical Marijuana Act,” Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said in a written statement.

The attorney general’s assertion came despite the court’s clarification that direct sales of medical marijuana between patients and caregivers is legal. Justices said a previous appeals court decision was wrong to assert the medical marijuana law prohibits such sales.

Although many dispensaries continue to operate, they do so with some uncertainty about the medical marijuana law’s provisions.

The Supreme Court’s latest decision affirms the dispensaries’ right to operate. The ban some municipalities imposed said that because marijuana is illegal under federal law, that medical marijuana was illegal, too. Last year, the Justice Department said it would not block states from relaxing laws on marijuana’s medical and recreational use.

Michigan’s law still faces a problem that has plagued it from the start: clarification from the state Legislature. The law should be clear about who can sell the drug and where — and that’s up to our lawmakers. It’s time they come to terms with the law and create reasonable, understandable parameters.

Times Herald (Port Huron)

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