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Of marijuana, two things can be said with confidence:
• A significant majority of Michigan voters believe doctors should be allowed to prescribe the drug for patients to whom it provides relief from illness and pain.
• The law those voters adopted in November 2008 to protect patients and doctors from prosecution for the prescription, cultivation or use of medical marijuana has overwhelmed the state bureaucrats charged with administering it, created loopholes for traffickers, left police and prosecutors too much discretion to harass authorized users, and spawned dozens of court cases that will effectively force judges to make policy as they go — unless state legislators do the responsible thing and fix the troubled statute.
Today, the Free Press examines some of the difficulties created by the Michigan Marihuana Act — and suggests how lawmakers can address them without thwarting the compassionate objective Michigan voters have overwhelmingly embraced.
How to fix Michigan’s medical marijuana law
Two years after Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana, 10 full-time workers in the state Department of Community Health are struggling to process 550 applications a day from Michigan residents seeking permits to cultivate and use the drug.
The new law obliges the state to approve or disapprove applications within 15 days; last week, state workers were just processing requests that arrived in early December. So far the state has authorized about 64,000 patients to use marijuana and another 25,000 caregivers to grow and administer it. More than 24,000 applications are still pending — and DCH is already receiving requests for the annual renewals mandated by the new law.
Meanwhile, several Michigan counties are pressing criminal charges against — and being sued by — individuals who claim to be cultivating and selling marijuana for medical use, or providing venues for its consumption by registered users. In other counties, entrepreneurs doing the same thing face little threat of prosecution, much less official regulation.