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Friday, January 16, 2015

Michigan and National News -by Rachel Bunting

Lansing: A pair of bills that would expand access to medical marijuana and allow for different uses of marijuana were not taken up by the Senate this year, but may take up the issue again when session resumes next year. The “bills legalizing cannabis infused products for registered medical marijuana users and allowing dispensaries that would buy from and sell to them passed the House but not the Senate.” Some law enforcement agencies as well as health care professionals put out press against the legislation this week and may have influenced the Senate on not taking up the bill.

Wexford County: Police say a 31 year-old Mesick woman gave marijuana to her children, ages 10 and 12, for medical purposes. The woman, Amy Renee Cunningham, is being charged with child abuse. She reportedly gave her 12 year-old son marijuana to treat his ADHD because she prefers it to traditionally prescribed medications. She also gave her 10 year-old son pot to help him with some emotional issues. Police became involved with the issue after Cunningham told a Child Protective Services worker that she was giving the boys marijuana. Cunningham will be charged with third degree child abuse and the delivery/manufacturing of marijuana.

Kent County: Sergeant Timothy Bernhardt committed suicide less than a month after pleading guilty to drug house charges over possessing marijuana butter. The Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that marijuana butter is not considered a “usable form” of medical marijuana, and therefore is still illegal to possess. No evidence was ever given that marijuana was distributed to anyone without a patient card or over the amount they are allowed to have. Bernhardt was facing up to two years in jail and a $25,000 fine. It is unfortunate that the arrest of Bernhardt as well as his caregiver and co-workers relied on a technicality in the law. 

Pound: A 29 year-old man was arrested this month after police searched this home and discovered 42 marijuana plants. The man’s name is being withheld pending formal charges, but he is being held on charges of the manufacturing of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia, and keeping a drug house. Police seized all 42 plants and thousands of dollars’ worth of growing equipment. The suspect is being held at the Marinette County Jail until the charges are filed by the district attorney.

Nationwide: The annual Monitoring the Future survey released a statement Tuesday Dec. 16th stating that teen marijuana use has declined slightly across the country in 2014. It appears to be the lowest it has been in the past four to six years, but it is still generally at or above the ten-year average. Nora Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse said “we have not seen increases in the use [of marijuana], which is something we were afraid would happen.” The survey found that only 30 percent of teens had used marijuana in their lifetime while about 14 percent had used in the previous month. The slight drop in marijuana use goes with the same year that saw larger drops in prescription drug abuse, alcohol use, and cigarette smoking. However the survey did show that teens’ perception of the harmfulness of marijuana has also declined while some official suggest could lead to greater use. There was also a shift in the way marijuana is consumed as teens in certain states were 50 percent likelier to have marijuana in its edible form. Volkow would like more studies done to determine the “bioavailability” of pot in the body and how it affects the brain.

Washington: Washington has seen an increase in the number of stoned drivers on its roadways now that there is
legal marijuana in the state. The cases of impaired drivers rose from 18.6% to 25%, worrying state officials. At the moment the only accurate way to test drivers for THC impairment is with a blood test which does not give real-time results. Scientists at Washington State University are currently working on a new, yet classic, driving impairment test for THC: a breathalyzer. The breathalyzer would use saliva to test the amount of THC in the driver’s system. Dr. Herbert Hill, the lead on the project, expects the prototype to be ready to start testing in early 2015. Barry Bard of Marijuana. com makes the point that there will still be problems with this new prototype since THC stays in a person’s system for days or even weeks. The device would have to determine the time frame in which the person ingested the marijuana. There would also need to be clear guidelines on whether or not a medical marijuana patient would be entitled to drive while on their medication. The prototype is a good start but ultimately is a blurry area until the rules are more cut and dry.

Grants Pass, Oregon: The Department of Justice ruled that Native American tribes may grow and sell marijuana. The ruling came with the condition that the tribes follow the rules laid out by the federal government for the states that already have legalized cannabis. While many advocates see this as an opportunity to give rise to business as the casino industry has done, there is some skepticism since many tribes oppose the legalization of marijuana and only a handful show interest in the new opportunity. The Yakama Nation in Washington, The Oglala Sioux Tribal Council, and Klamath Tribe have all rejected the proposal to grow or distribute marijuana. One reason given by a former Klamath Tribe chairman, Jeff Mitchell, is the communities everywhere deal with huge drug and alcohol problems and will most likely proceed carefully with this idea. There is huge potential for economic growth says Seattle attorney Anthony Broadman, but the tribes have to be able to balance the social and political issues.

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