The Michigan medical cannabis community got a double dose of good news this past month.
On July 9, following the recommendation of the "Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel", Shelly Edgerton, Director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulation (LARA) approved 11 new conditions for which medical marijuana can be legally used. As LARA Director, Ms. Edgerton had the sole authority to to approve or disapprove the panel recommendations. Her action was a big departure from past LARA procedure relating to the approval of new qualifying conditions.
On July 18, a three judge panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in a published opinion (published opinions have the force of law statewide) that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) does not allow municipalities to restrict where or how caregivers can grow medical marijuana as long as they follow state law.
With the exception of Michigan Public Radio and Michigan Information and Research Service (MIRS), the Appellate Court decision received practically no news coverage in the State.
These two recent events are a big deal for the community.
Newly approved medical qualifying conditions are: Arthritis, Autism, Chronic Pain (this means a patient does not have to have SEVERE pain in order to qualify), Colitis, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Parkinsons Disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Spinal Cord Injury, Torrette's Syndrome and Ulcerative Colitis.
One of the newly approved conditions, Autism, was rejected for approval by former LARA Director Mike Zimmer. The only new condition approved prior to Ms Edgerton's time in office, was PTSD, which was sanctioned with great reservation by former director Steve Arwood.
In an interview with MMM Report, Ms. Edgerton discussed what seems to some, to be a sea of changes in LARA's direction.
"Ten years has made a big difference" she explained, referring to when the MMMA was first passed in 2008. "It is an evolution. Many, many states now have medical marijuana laws and in 9 states it is totally legal. New medical research has also been done."
She went on to say that the passage of Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) by the Legislature in 2016 was a big game changer.
"We never really had a regulatory model before, and that is significant." She went on to elaborate how LARA is now playing a key role in the overall scheme of things, and cutting through political red tape.
"I'm taking responsibility to make sure this (the MMFLA) works" she summarized.
In Deruitter v Township of Byron, appellate Judges Joel Hoekstra, William Murphy and Jane Markey left no doubt in their ruling, as to the rights of Michigan's licensed Caregivers.
The judges stated: "we believe that the plain language of the MMMA lacks any ambiguity that would necessitate judicial construction to decipher its meaning. When the statute is read as a whole, no irreconcilable conflict results that make the statutory provisions susceptible to more than one meaning. We conclude that the MMMA permits the medical use of marijuana, particularly the cultivation of marijuana by registered caregivers at locations regardless of land use zoning designations, as long as the activity occurs within the statutorily specified enclosed, locked facility."
This court decision is huge and it is highly unlikely Byron Township will waste any more taxpayer dollars appealing the matter to the State Supreme Court. This appellate opinion made many references to past rulings by the states top court. It should also be noted, that one of the panelists, Judge Jane Markey, has displayed a historic antagonism to cannabis in previous rulings on the issue since the MMMA was first passed years ago.
Since the inception of the MMMA in 2008 until the present, a plethora of municipalities all across Michigan have tried, or continue to restrict the rights of caregivers in some dubious legal fashion.
According to Craig Canterbury, a board member of "Cannabis Patients United" (CPU) whose institutional memory and command of the most arcane facts about Michigan cannabis policy issues is the stuff of legend, noted this "Hall of Shame" includes: Lansing, Kalamazoo, Southfield, Warren, Niles, Houghton, Lake Isabella, Sturgis, Grand Haven, Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, Livonia,
Marquette, Brighton, Lapeer, North Branch, Albert Township, Garden City, Flushing, Niles Township, Muskegon, Cheboygan County, Linden, Northville, Huntington Woods, Dryden, Elk Rapids, Hartford, Fruitport Township and Sault Ste Marie.
"There are likely even more of them out there", Mr. Canterbury concluded.
These municipalities must now clean up their act.
This isn't to say ignorant or malicious apparatchiks will stop playing mind games with caregivers who are unaware of this new ruling. But what is important in the final analysis, is any legal foundation these bureaucrats once had, has crumbled beyond repair.
As far as the addition of eleven new conditions for which medical use of cannabis is now legal; the decision is a Godsend for patients who are suffering from these difficult medical problems. It was the right thing to do on the part of the LARA director.
However, for marijuana haters in elected office, law enforcement, the drug treatment industry and "religious" life, who believe medical cannabis is a scam for persons just looking to get high; this decision is most unwelcome.
In their dark, morbid fantasies, there are now eleven new excuses that can be used by "recreational" users to score some legal herb.
In addition, this ruling offers even greater protection and cover for doctors who believe that marijuana use is not a mortal threat to civilized society.