By Charles Crumm, The Oakland Press
The number of caregivers and patients continues to drop as Michigan’s highest court weighs in on long-pending criminal cases involving the state’s medical marijuana program approved by voters in 2008.
The number of medical marijuana patients statewide fell by 18.55 percent in 2014, from 118,368 to 96,408.
The number of medical marijuana caregivers, limited by law to five patients, fell 15 percent from 27,046 to 22,966 compared to the year before.
Local and appeals court decisions that have mostly gone against medical marijuana patients and caregivers have had the effect of reducing their numbers, Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard said.
“It has dropped because of the specificity in the appeals court cases,” Bouchard said. “Before that, Michigan had more medical marijuana cardholders than the country of Canada.”
But some of those court rulings have been appealed. There are three long-pending cases now before the Michigan Supreme Court.
Though originating in Oakland County, the three cases have the potential to affect Michigan’s medical marijuana law statewide by clarifying portions of the law that provide for defense and immunity for qualifying patients and caregivers.
Clarification of the 2008 voter-approved law has been on ongoing process, said Bouchard, whose office has been active in medical marijuana enforcement.
“I’m always appreciative of some of the medical marijuana cases going to the courts,” Bouchard said. “The ballot initiative was fraught with ambiguity. Each time, it has clarified the rules for law enforcement and medical marijuana users.”
Key court decisions have ruled that retail dispensaries aren’t allowed under the law. Nor are patient-to-patient medical marijuana sales.
The voter-approved ballot proposal in 2008 allowing medical marijuana was off to a rocky road from the start.
Despite voter support in Michigan and other states for some legalization, marijuana remains a federally classified Schedule 1 drug illegal in all states.
Critics have called the Michigan law vague, and the adoption of rules for the medical marijuana program was left to state lawmakers.
Defense attorneys said the reality is that clarifying the law has been left to the courts with many defendants on hold for several years. Many have been busted for opening dispensaries that prosecutors and law enforcement said aren’t allowed under the law. The Michigan Legislature has also made some tweaks to the law. However, voters in many …Read More