Medical marijuana may be legal in Michigan, but when the law comes under scrutiny, more questions than answers are found. Michigan voters called for the legalization of medical marijuana in 2008. But the resulting law’s ambiguity has caused problems for patients trying to obtain the drug for treatment. Last week, Michigan Court of Appeals Judge Peter O’Connell called for a revision of the current law, which he argues has been too “open for interpretation.” Michigan lawmakers should clarify the existing legislation so that patients who are prescribed marijuana can get it without fear of violating the law.
Last Wednesday, Judge O’Connell released a 30-page opinion on an Oakland County case in which two Madison Heights residents were charged with marijuana possession. In the opinion, he argues that state legislators should refine the medical marijuana law since it contradicts current Public Health Codes that make the possession and manufacture of marijuana illegal, according to a Sept. 16 article in The Detroit News. O’Connell goes on to say that even users “who proceed with due caution” could “lose both their property and liberty” because of these inconsistencies.
Michigan’s economy wins if legislators can create a viable way of obtaining legal medical marijuana. If Michigan created a system like California’s — where individuals who hold a prescription for medical marijuana have access to regulated and taxed dispensaries — the state could gain millions of dollars in revenue annually. The marijuana industry also could contribute to the diversification of Michigan’s economy. Instead, the ambiguities in the law prevent the state from capitalizing on this potential source of income.
Cardholders deserve a clear way to obtain marijuana. The drug can be a useful treatment for various health issues. Among other things, marijuana helps stimulate hunger in people undergoing chemotherapy, relieves pain, is used to treat glaucoma and helps control nausea. Despite the fact that Michigan’s law is among the most liberal in the country, it fails to establish a clear, easily accessible and legal way for cardholders to obtain marijuana. There’s no reason to deny medical marijuana cardholders access to the treatment they need and have been legally prescribed.
Michigan’s law — which can be broadly interpreted — is the crux of the problem. Though medical marijuana users may think they are operating within their legal rights by possessing the drug, prosecutors sometimes take legal action against users under other state guidelines. This ambiguity exists despite the fact that nearly 63 percent of voters sent a clear message to the state by voting in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in 2008. Lawmakers need to respond to the public mandate by creating a unified legal structure in which both citizens and law enforcement officials can operate appropriately. O’Connell’s suggestion is sensible — he calls for the Michigan Supreme Court to examine legal routes which will combine ample drug regulation with allowing dispensaries to remain open.
Those prescribed the drug deserve a way to get treatment without fear of prosecution. The Michigan legislature must take swift action to resolve the ambiguities and correct the contradictions in the existing law.