Though Michigan voters approved medicinal marijuana as a legal prescription for prescribed individuals nearly three years ago, patients and caregivers have faced an ongoing battle in trying to obtain and provide the substance. The issue became even more severe in late August when Lansing dispensaries — at least 20 of them — were ruled to be a violation of the 2008 ballot initiative and were forced to close their doors.

Patients who use marijuana for symptom relief were also ruled against last week when an appeals court determined that they must wait at least 30 days after registering for a state marijuana card before beginning to grow plants. This means that Lansing residents who have a prescription for medical marijuana will potentially have to wait a month before beginning the process of providing their own prescription.

It seems that Michigan law makers and law enforcement are refusing to accept the legality of medical marijuana — regardless of voter approval — and are treating patients as criminals. And the troubles facing Lansing dispensary owners are far from being outside the norm. Since the laws passage, dispensaries and compassion clinics have been raided, and lawmakers and law enforcement officials have been interpreting the laws in a way that makes obtaining the legal prescription as difficult as possible.

Lansing dispensary owners and their supporters justifiably fought back yesterday at a rally seeking to raise money to support their cause. They plan to either appeal the court decision right away or ask for an emergency staying of the ruling. Either way, they will fight for their legal right to continue to provide a service that many Lansing residents urgently need.

While many government officials think of marijuana strictly in terms of its general illegality, medical marijuana is an important drug that helps many people who suffer from painful diseases. Many residents throughout the state rely on it for relief from symptoms like chronic pain or nausea associated with chemotherapy. People enduring such treatments — some of which are induced by prescribed, legal medicines — should be able to use a substance that will help ease their discomfort.

Ann Arbor City Council members recently discussed the Michigan Court of Appeals ruling and expressed uncertainty about how to proceed with the city’s new medical marijuana dispensary licensing board.

Without an immediate change in Lansing, these people will either be forced to go without the medicinal marijuana they need, or obtain it through illegal means. If the dispensaries are not operating in the proper way, then that needs to be addressed. But forcing all of them to close their doors addresses the issue at the expense of patients. The court system needs to realize the suffering that this shut down can cause and grant the stay until the dispensary owners are able to take legal action on their own behalf.

There is no doubt that the current law pertaining to medical marijuana is unclear. However, that doesn’t mean that state officials have the right to enforce it as they see fit. Michigan lawmakers need to come together and create a unified, statewide solution to the conflicts over medical marijuana. They need to form policy that is clear and comprehensive to make it simple for caregivers and patients to provide and obtain medical marijuana within the bounds of the law.

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