In the 2008 election, Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana. Though a positive development for suffering patients who can use marijuana to ease their pain, the new law left many unanswered questions about how eligible persons would obtain the drug. But one way to get those answers is to enroll in the new Med Grow Cannabis College in Southfield. Educating Michigan residents about how to grow and use marijuana in conjunction with this law is important, and other institutions, both public and private, should follow Med Grow’s example. This includes the state government, which has an obligation to provide a forum for education on medical marijuana use.

While not a college in the traditional sense, Med Grow offers a six-week curriculum that teaches students about the history of cannabis, methods of horticulture and legal regulations of the treatment. The program, which launched last April and costs about $475, is intended for caregivers — those who grow and sell marijuana to patients — and the patients themselves. Med Grow is even receiving national attention — earlier this week, The New York Times wrote a story about the college.

Med Grow is a useful tool for people who want to take advantage of the one-year-old law, because even though medical marijuana is suddenly legal doesn’t mean people know how to use or grow it. This is a behavior that has only been permissible in secret by a limited group of individuals who are knowledgeable about the drug. Bringing medical marijuana use aboveground requires education.

And educating people on how to use and grow medical marijuana can only be good for the people of Michigan. For one thing, marijuana relieves the suffering of sick people. As a pain reliever, marijuana benefits injured and sick people who may not react well to other pain relievers and shouldn’t feel discouraged about obtaining relief. This is, after all, the reason that medical marijuana was placed on the ballot and approved in 2008.

That primary purpose aside, increased medical marijuana growth is also an economic opportunity for the state. This is important because the state’s promising industries have begun to dwindle as of late. But like California, another state with progressive marijuana laws, Michigan has the chance to pioneer an industry that will likely grow across the country as laws continue to become less restrictive. People should feel empowered to participate in this up-and-coming sector of the state economy.

But while Med Grow is leading the way in the private sector, it’s filling a void that the state government created by failing to deal with the legal ramifications of medical marijuana when it was approved last year. The fact that there hasn’t been any direction coming from state government is a shame. State authorities should be offering classes and training sessions. The government needs to follow Med Grow’s example and fulfill its role as an educator for the public good.

With the state economy in such trouble, national news outlets haven’t had particularly good things to say about Michigan lately. But the fact that this state is leading the way on marijuana reform is attracting attention of a more progressive kind — something unusually refreshing. As marijuana laws continue to head toward greater permissiveness, the state will benefit from keeping ahead of the curve.

Concerns may exist that increased government advocacy of marijuana will one day snowball into the total legalization of marijuana. With any hope, these concerns will prove true and marijuana usage will finally become a universally accepted legal activity.

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