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Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Michigan News - June 2015 - by Rachel Bunting

Fix the Law!
Lansing- There are many organizations in Michigan working toward either legalizing, decriminalizing, protecting medical, or centralizing marijuana in the state. Each group seems to have their own agenda and ideas for what they would like to see happen with marijuana, medical or recreational. Recently, thirteen of the main groups have put aside their differences to submit a statement advocating for the passage of two “critical and urgent” House bills. The letter, addressed to Rep. Klint Kesto and Judiciary Committee members, expressed the organizations’ “strong support for patient safety while improving the efficacy of the medical marijuana industry in the state.” They seek to “provide safe access to medical marijuana…provide for the testing of medical marijuana…clarify that patients may possess and use smoking alternative forms of medical marijuana.”

      The gist of the letter is asking for the law to be defined more clearly toward edibles, tinctures, etc. while finding a way to make it safe for patients to receive their medicine through a safe access point or provisioning center, all of which is currently illegal under the murky law. The letter was submitted and signed by the National Patients’ Rights Association, Michigan NORML, Americans for Safe Access- Michigan chapter, Cannabis Patients United, Safer Michigan Coalition, Ann Arbor Medical Cannabis Guild, Marijuana Policy Project, Michigan Parents for Compassion, Pediatric Cannabis Therapy, Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, Detroit Medical Cannabis Guild, Michigan Cannabis Development Association, and Lansing Medical Cannabis Guild.

Victory in East Lansing
East Lansing- Voters approved a charter amendment in East Lansing on May 5th. The amendment, which repeals the city’s marijuana laws and removes penalties on small quantities of cannabis, passed by nearly a two-to-one margin. The proposal allows the use, possession, and transfer of up to one ounce by persons 21 or older on private property.  Chairman of the Michigan Comprehensive Cannabis Reform Initiative, Jeffrey Hank, told the Lansing State Journal “It’s very clear with the results tonight on Proposal 1 and the sales tax, the conversation should start tomorrow with Gov. Snyder and the Legislature on a reasonable plan to legalize, tax and regulate cannabis in Michigan.” Marijuana use is still prohibited in public space and anywhere on the Michigan State University Campus.

Rasta May Lose MM License

Michigan- A Rastafarian couple that recently moved to Michigan have been sentenced to probation in Indiana for the possession of cannabis. Marijuana is a key aspect of the Rastafarian faith as they believe that smoking the herb brings peace, wisdom, and a spiritual connection with nature. The couple, Jerome Scott and Melanie Schmidt, moved to Michigan in search of legal cannabis for medical and religious reasons after being charged with a Class D felony for growing the drug in his home state of Indiana. Scott called the police to his home after being robbed at gunpoint for $1,700. Once inside the police did a sweep of the home discovering 150 plants and paraphernalia.

     Scott was arrested for growing with intent to distribute. Scott maintains that he is not a drug dealer contributing to the black market, he has simply provided medication for those that need it and sacrament to those that use the drug for religious reasons. Since moving to Michigan Scott has obtained his medical marijuana card and has become a caregiver. The recent probation put on him from Indiana is now a concern for Scott who could lose his medical marijuana card as well as his caregiver status when it comes time for him to renew next year. Losing his ability to be a caregiver affects him deeply as he sees the cultivation of cannabis as his calling and a key aspect of his faith.

Give Them Their Property!
Lansing- Currently in Michigan police are allowed to keep all seized property, even when no crime is charged. The property can be homes, vehicles, cash, or anything else they believe or can claim was obtained through illegal activity. However our lawmakers are considering new legislation that would reform the civil asset forfeiture laws. Lee McGrath, legislative counsel for the Institute for Justice, and his organization are backing the reform but truly feel the civil forfeiture laws need to be abolished. Many believe that if the legislation passes it will only be the first step in stopping abuses by police agencies. In February The Detroit Free Press detailed how state and local police departments seized $24.3 million in cash and property from citizens, most of whom were never charged with a crime due to insufficient evidence.

     The five new bills proposed would require law enforcement to show “clear and convincing” evidence of criminal conduct as well as provide a detailed report to the Michigan State Police about what they seized, whether there were charges or convictions in those cases, and how the money seized was spent. There is no law requiring departments to report their information to the State. The bills also would prevent police from seizing a car in cases where the driver has less than one ounce of marijuana in their possession, the law would also take into account “personal use” which could not be considered criminal activity. The committee looking over the bills is expected to vote within a few weeks, if passed they will move on to the house and senate.

Not a Gateway Drug
A recent study looked at 273 medical marijuana patients in Michigan to determine if using medical marijuana in conjunction with prescription pain medications will increase the risk of the patient using substances such as alcohol and other drugs. More than 60 percent of the participants in the study claimed to also use prescription pain medicine with their marijuana. Brian Perron, the lead author of the study, which was published in the May issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, says the research team was surprised to find there were no significant differences in the rate of co-occurring substance use between those who used prescription pain medication and those who did not.

     Perron says the team “expected that persons receiving both cannabis and prescription opiates would have greater levels of involvement with alcohol and other drugs. However that wasn’t the case…they showed very few differences in their use of alcohol and other drugs compared to those receiving medical cannabis only.” Perron does note that this was an observational study and therefore inferences must be made carefully.

Medication for Autism
Van Buren Township: Noah Smith is a 6 year-old with autism and epilepsy who is registered to use medical marijuana extracts to control his seizure activity. But his mother, Lisa, has noticed another effect from the oils, saying her son’s dangerous autistic behaviors have subsided as well. Now she would like to see autism put on the list of conditions that qualify people for the herb. Autism, especially in severe forms, can be associated with emotional difficulties such as regulating or displaying emotions which can be frustrating and lead to aggressive behavior. Lisa says Noah used to have sudden aggressive outbursts accompanied by hair pulling, kicking, and punching but that changed when he began taking the extracts. Now she says, “That’s all stopped. He’s more focused, he’s calmer. He sleeps better through the night. He has a better appetite. You can tell he’s growing, gaining weight.”

     A public hearing scheduled for May 27th will make a recommendation to the director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Lisa claims to know many parents with autistic children who have no other qualifying conditions to receive the drug, and the parents are desperate for some type of relief for their children. The Medical Marijuana Review Panel rejected the addition to the list in 2013 as there was concern about the effectiveness and about adding more children to the list of card holders. However the new effort has many more doctors willing to speak in favor of the treatment this time around and many parents are hopeful the change will go through.

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