The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was passed with 63 percent of the vote in 2008, legalizing the use of medical marijuana under state law. Though a majority of Michigan voters approved the ballot initiative, legislators and law enforcement officials have been trying to supersede the democratic wishes of the electorate by making the bill confusing and tightening restrictions.

The latest of these attempts comes from Rep. Rick Jones (R–Grand Ledge), who has introduced legislation which aims to outlaw marijuana clubs where medicinal marijuana patients gather. The Michigan Legislature needs to respect the wishes of the electorate and stop trying to place undue constraints on medical marijuana use.

Medical marijuana clubs, often referred to as compassion clubs, started opening after medicinal marijuana was legalized in Michigan. The clubs are intended to provide a place for patients who have certified medical marijuana cards to gather for social support. But since their inception, compassion clubs have been a source of controversy and a target of law enforcement. Multiple clubs have been raided, and club owners as well as patrons have been arrested.

Jones has said the reason for outlawing the clubs is to prevent patients from driving after using marijuana. But this is completely flawed logic. While the concern is legitimate, it doesn’t provide a sufficient reason to outlaw the clubs entirely. Drinking and driving is certainly a safety risk and concern, yet no legislator is pushing to make bars and nightclubs illegal.

The legislation hinders a citizen’s Constitutional right to gather and associate, especially when that gathering is to use a legal prescription that is medically beneficial. Not only is the logic behind the bill inconsistent with standing policies, but it serves as a witch hunt against medical marijuana users. If there are concerns about patrons traveling safely home from compassion clubs, then that should be addressed, but banning the clubs entirely is not the solution.

The root of the problem is that Michigan’s medical marijuana law is clouded by unclear guidelines and regulations. Since the clubs aren’t explicitly mentioned in the law, they have fallen into a legal “gray area” that has left them open to raids by police and legal charges and fines. But the clubs aren’t outlawed either, and they should be allowed to keep servicing the medicinal marijuana community without any interference from law enforcement.

In order to solve the problem and stop innocent patients from being arrested for using a completely legal substance, the state Legislature needs to clarify its medical marijuana laws and make them more transparent, including retaining the legality of marijuana clubs that provide an important — and legal — service to medical marijuana users.

The easiest way to make the marijuana laws clearer is to completely legalize marijuana. This would make it simpler for law enforcement and stop users from being wrongly arrested. In the meantime, the state Legislature should vote down Jones’s misguided and inconsistent bill in order to protect marijuana clubs and their innocent patrons.

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