December 4, 2011 - Traverse City Record-Eagle Editorial (Traverse City, MI)
The four public-notinvited medical marijuana sessions sponsored by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette across Michigan had more to do with promoting Schuette’s stridently anti-pot political agenda than trying to find ways to make the law work for the tens of thousands of Michigan residents it was meant to help.
That’s a ludicrous approach for the state’s top cop to take, but when that top cop acts more like a politician than policeman it’s what we get.
The Schuette-sponsored mini-symposium “Clearing the Air: Implementing and Enforcing Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Law” was held in Traverse City last week, and it proved to be way more about enforcement than implementation.
The fact that medical marijuana patients, caregivers and advocates — the people who could best talk about implementation — were not invited to the party said a lot. And so did Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout. She said the event was being held so: “... (local officials) can get a better handle on this very confusing law and have some confidence that they’re keeping their community safe.”
Safe from whom? And for whom? Was she referring to keeping untold thousands of Michigan residents safe from chronic pain or the debilitating effects of chemotherapy or radiation therapy?
Those are the people this law is all about. But even though the law is in flux and many outlets where patients could go to buy marijuana have closed because of a recent court ruling, Schuette pointedly dis-invited patients, caregivers and advocates — the very people who could talk most authoritatively about how to make the law work while “protecting” the rest of us from potheads in the throes of reefer madness.
Another Schuette spokesperson underscored what a red herring the “safety” issue really was. He said Schuette has made clear “we don’t think voters intended for drug shops outside of elementary schools or next to churches.” Of course they didn’t. But no one — including the AG’S office, presumably — is claiming that the problem with the law is that people are setting up drug shops outside churches and schools, either. That kind of rhetoric is aimed solely at changing the topic, not advancing the discussion.
The speakers at the Traverse City forum did not talk about the aim of the law or the people it was passed to serve, but rather how to crack down on people they think are cashing in. Many people, apparently including Schuette, don’t like to acknowledge that an overwhelming 63 percent of voters approved the state’s medical marijuana ballot proposal just over three years ago and it is the law of the land. Period.
Under that law, patients certified by a doctor are allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants, and designated caregivers are also allowed to grow and distribute marijuana to up to five patients.
There’s no question that as passed, the medical marijuana act is unclear and lacks the kind of details and supporting legislation necessary to support those who need marijuana therapy for a severe physical condition and cull out those just trying to cash in.
But the blame for that lack of coherence lies directly with Michigan’s ohso-lame Legislature, which has essentially refused to create the necessary bedrock of enabling legislation, not with those who could benefit so much from medical marijuana.
A state police lieutenant at the Traverse City event railed that the process of certifying patients has become a “cottage industry for unscrupulous doctors.” He needs to take a deep breath and one, vent his anger at lawmakers who have utterly failed to do their job, and two, leave the decisions over who is “unscrupulous” up to prosecutors, judges and juries.
The fact that the four Schuette-sponsored pot summits across the state did not include patients or caregivers or anyone outside law enforcement or local government shows clearly that this wasn’t an effort to find ways to make the law work.
The session Wednesday was in no way an attempt to resolve the access and enforcement issues that have kept many medical marijuana users from getting the relief voters said they were entitled to have.
As Michigan’s top law enforcement officer, Schuette has failed the people he was elected to protect and defend, all in the name of a personal political agenda.
(This editorial was written by the Record Eagle's editorial staff)