On Feb. 8, Michigan’s Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana patients in the state cannot transfer marijuana from patient to patient. The decision was based on an ambiguity in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act regarding how patients acquire marijuana, and will likely result in the closing of medical marijuana dispensaries across the state. While consistent with the letter of the law, this ruling is an impediment to the legitimate needs of medical marijuana patients and will likely result in wasted police time spent closing marijuana dispensaries. Michigan’s legislature should pursue a proposal that would ensure medical marijuana patients’ ability to get their medication easily and economically.

While the ruling’s effects on Michigan’s medical marijuana industry are not immediately clear, they aren’t likely to be beneficial. The Supreme Court case involved a marijuana dispensary in Mt. Pleasant, which local officials will now shut down. Though the stated reason behind the ruling was that the facility violated health code, a broader implication of this decision is that State Attorney General Bill Schuette has told county prosecutors across the state that they now have authority to close all marijuana dispensaries on the grounds that they’re a public nuisance. Without these dispensaries, the MMMA states that patients will either have to grow their own marijuana or rely on an approved caregiver to procure it for them. Caregivers, who serve a third of Michigan’s 126,000 medical marijuana users, are allowed to supply only up to five patients with marijuana.

This decision, as the lone dissenting Supreme Court justice asserted, goes against the MMMA’s intention of providing relief to those who are ill. In effect, it contradicts the will of the 63 percent of voters who passed the MMMA in 2008. Enforcing the Supreme Court’s decision by shuttering the state’s dispensaries would require a considerable expenditure of local police time and resources, both of which continue to be scarce in a time of tight government spending and a tepid economy. The state’s net revenue from medical marijuana sales, which was $6.3 million last year, could also be endangered as a result of the decision.

Fortunately Republican state Rep. Mike Callton introduced a bill co-sponsored by Rep. Jeff Irwin, a democrat representing Ann Arbor, that would make dispensaries legal under Michigan law. Such a bill would be a boon to the financial situations of local and state level government, establishing the legality of dispensaries and a clear set of rules and regulations for their operation. More importantly, it would ensure that medical marijuana patients are able to get their medication promptly and cheaply.

Michigan’s legislature should give their full attention to this piece of legislation, considering how dispensaries operate currently and then acting to ensure that no dispensary operating in compliance with the law will fear having police shut their doors.

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