A medical jar containing medical marijuana is seen next to small marijuana plants growing in a building near Michigan and 22nd Street days before Michigan’s first Medical Marijuana Expo will take place this weekend.(Photo: Steve Perez / The Detroit News)
The number of patients in Michigan’s medical marijuana program declined for the second year in a row in 2014, according to state statistics reviewed by The Detroit News.
Last year, the number of identification cards for patients in the program totaled 96,408, according to the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. That compares with 119,470 patients in 2011, and 118,368 in 2013.
The downward trend continued in Metro Detroit, too, with the number of medical marijuana patients falling in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties for a third straight year.
In Wayne County, the number dropped from 14,169 in 2013 to 12,258 last year. Since 2011, participation has dropped 20 percent, from 15,385.
Oakland County’s patient ranks declined from 10,741 in 2013 to 9,330 in 2014. Since 2011, participation has dropped 22 percent, from 12,083.
Macomb County’s number of patients in the state medical marijuana program dipped from 7,997 in 2013 to 7,644 last year. Since 2011, participation has fallen 10 percent, from 8,499.
Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act, which allows residents with debilitating medical conditions to legally use the drug, was approved by the state’s voters in 2008.
Under the law, Michiganians can apply for and obtain licenses to use and grow marijuana for medicinal purposes.
Officials with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs said the agency does not speculate on why the number of patients is down.
Morgan Fox, a spokesman for the Marijuana Policy Project, said it’s not clear what’s behind the decline.
“The number of patients in Michigan has been fluctuating and it’s tough to say if there’s a direct cause,” he said.
Based in Washington, D.C., the organization advocates and lobbies for the legalization of marijuana use.
Fox said many reasons may be driving the trend. A big one is probably that patients don’t feel the state law protects them from prosecution, he said.
Michigan allows licensed people to use, grow and sell marijuana for medicinal purposes, but the drug is still illegal under federal law, and patients with state-issued cards have been prosecuted.
In one instance, an Okemos businessman who followed state law when leasing warehouse space to licensed medical marijuana growers was arrested by federal authorities, tried and convicted for his role in the operation. He’s serving a three-year federal prison sentence.
And in Lansing in 2013, police and …Read More