Monthly Archives: March 2012

Michigan’s Supreme Court to decide who can sell medical marihuana

Michigan’s Supreme Court (SCt) released an order on Wednesday indicating that they will ultimately decide whether “Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) … permits patient-to-patient sales of marihuana.”  The high court agreed to review “the August 23, 2011 judgment of the Court of Appeals” that found such activities to be a public nuisance and in violation of Michigan’s Public Health Code.

The Court of Appeals’ (COA) ruling caused many medical marihuana dispensary-type businesses to voluntarily close their doors.  It also emboldened law enforcement agencies throughout the state to pursue criminal and civil actions against medical marihuana ventures that dared to remain open.

The controversial case at issue originated in 2010, when the Isabella County Prosecutor’s office asked a circuit court judge to issue an injunction against the Compassionate Apothecary (CA) in Mt. Pleasant, Michigan.

On December 16, 2010, Circuit Judge Paul H. Chamberlain issued an order declining to issue an injunction.  Judge Chamberlain opined that the CA “would suffer a great hardship if this court enjoined them from operating their business because not only would they lose their business and property, but they would suffer such loss despite conforming to the laws of this state … The public owns a large interest in this case because the same public voted to enact the MMMA, which lends support for its interest in providing a system by which registered qualifying patients may engage in the medical use of marihuana to alleviate their debilitating medical conditions and symptoms associated with such conditions.”

Isabella County’s prosecutor argued in his appellate brief to the COA that the MMMA, “clearly did not intend to allow the operation of dispensaries under the guise of patient to patient transfers. The [MMMA] intended to create a relationship between qualifying patients and registered caregivers as means of obtaining medicinal marihuana.”

The CA countered in their COA brief that if the “[MMMA] wished to require a connection through the Department’s registration process to the patient from which the registered caregiver is receiving compensation, it could have easily said so… It does not.  Accordingly, the converse is true; any registered qualifying patient may provide compensation to any registered primary caregiver for costs associated with assisting that registered qualifying patient in the medical use of marihuana.”

Michigan’s Attorney General (AG) filed an amicus brief with the COA arguing that the CA’s “business activities of facilitating the transfer, delivery or sale of marihuana between registered qualifying patients and between registered primary caregivers and qualifying patients not in a registered relationship with the caregivers are not protected by the [MMMA]. Because [the CA’s] activities are unprotected, they violate other existing laws and are illegal.”

The Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC) was also allowed to file an amicus brief.  MACC argued in their brief that the “sale of marihuana between Patients and Caregivers is not illegal. The Controlled Substances Act makes it illegal for individuals to possess, manufacture, and distribute marihuana but does not make it illegal for them to sell marihuana.”

On June 7, 2011, the COA heard oral arguments pertaining to the CA appeal.  COA Judge Cynthia Stephens asked Michigan’s Assistant Attorney General when “a patient, who is a registered patient, gives another patient the product – with or without compensation – who then gets prosecuted?”  Assistant AG Heather Meingast responded, stating the person that would be prosecuted was the “selling patient, or the transferor patient would be subject to prosecution… a patient cannot assist other patients through the delivery of medical marihuana because that activity is solely delegated to a registered primary caregiver…”

The COA’s August 23, 2011 opinion found that the, “operation of CA is a public nuisance and must be enjoined…  Because defendants possess marihuana, and they possess it with the intent to deliver it to CA members, defendants’ operation of CA is in violation of the [Public Health Code].  Further, their violation of the PHC is not excused by the MMMA because defendants do not operate CA in accordance with the provisions of the MMMA. Through CA, defendants actively participate in the “sale” of marihuana between CA members, but the “medical use” of marihuana does not include the “sale” of marihuana. In addition, even if defendants were engaged in the “medical use” of marihuana, they would not be entitled to the immunity granted by § 4(i) because defendants are not assisting registered qualifying patients with “using or administering” marihuana.”

The CA filed their SCt application for leave to appeal on October 4, 2011.  They argue within their brief that, “Under the guise of legal reasoning, the Court of Appeals engaged in judicial activism and issued an opinion invalidating protections embodied in a law passed by 63% of Michigan voters. The Court of Appeals personal opinions are so pervasive that not one medical marihuana case decided by that court has returned a decision in favor of a defendant. This is not accidental.  Because of this activism, thousands of qualifying patients are left without adequate access to medicine legal for them to consume in Michigan. Also as a result of this activism, businesses such as CA have shuttered their doors in fear of being criminally prosecuted for engaging in conduct – patient-to-patient transfers – that comports with the statutory language, but that the Court of Appeals has now deemed illegal without a statutory basis upon which to ground its opinion. Instead, the Court of Appeals has used a broad brush to paint all “dispensaries” illegal. The unsurprising upheaval that occurred as a result of this blatant judicial activism cannot be countenanced by this Court, and the unprecedented maneuver of denying medication to qualifying patients and closing businesses with the stroke of a pen cries out for review.”

The SCt has not yet set a date to hear oral arguments in this appeal.  Their order, which was released on Wednesday, states that the “Attorney General and the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers are invited to file briefs amicus curiae. Other persons or groups interested in the determination of the issues presented in this case may move the Court for permission to file briefs amicus curiae.”

(Anyone who is interested in obtaining documents referred to in this article can contact Eric L. VanDussen directly at: ericlvandussen@gmail.com – you can watch the COA oral arguments at: http://vimeo.com/24835605)

Continue reading on Examiner.com Michigan’s Supreme Court to decide who can sell medical marihuana – Traverse City Headline | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/headline-in-traverse-city/michigan-s-supreme-court-to-decide-who-can-sell-medical-marihuana#ixzz1qcdrdF8z

via The Examiner

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Royal Oak Township supervisor pleads guilty to taking $10,000 bribe

A Royal Oak Township official pleaded guilty in federal court today to pocketing a $10,000 bribe in exchange for a political favor involving a demolition contract.

William Morgan, the supervisor of Royal Oak Township, pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy before U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Tarnow.

During his plea hearing, Morgan admitted that he accepted a $10,000 bribe from a company that unsuccessfully tried to win a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development contract involving an asbestos abatement project.

Morgan admitted that he conspired with the owner of that company and others to submit a false report regarding the asbestos to be abated in an abandoned theater on Eight Mile Road, which was to be demolished.

Morgan and others, authorities said, were trying to obtain $170,000 in federal funds, which were intended to be used by communities to improve blighted areas by removing dilapidated buildings.

“The conduct in this case not only breached the public trust, but it also risked public health by evading the rules for removing asbestos safely,” U.S. Attorney Barbara McQuade said.

Added Randall Ashe, special agent in charge of U.S. Environmental Protection Agency — Criminal Investigation Division:

“Asbestos can cause cancer and other fatal diseases and has no safe exposure level. That’s why the main question that a public official should ask himself when awarding an asbestos abatement contract is, ‘Who can best do the job competently, safely and cost-effectively?'”

Morgan faces up to five years in prison on each conspiracy count, and a $250,000 fine.

He will be sentenced Aug. 2.

via Freep

Michigan Supreme Court to decide whether medical marijuana patients can sell to other patients

LANSING – The Michigan Supreme Court agreed today to decide a key issue in the wide range of disputes over Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law – whether registered patients are permitted to sell marijuana to other registered patients.

An appeals court decision last year prohibiting such sales resulted in the closure of dozens of so-called marijuana dispensaries across the state.

The case to be heard by the Supreme Court involves a dispensary called Compassionate Apothecary in Mt. Pleasant which was targeted by the Isabella County Prosecutor’s office in 2010. A lower court found that patient-to-patient sales were permitted under Michigan law and allowed the dispensary, where registered patients could purchase marijuana from other patients, to remain in operation. It closed after last year’s appellate ruling.

Prosecutors and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argue the only sales of marijuana allowed under the law are those by a registered “caregiver” to his or her registered patients. They asked the courts to order Compassionate Apothecary and other retail sales outlets closed as public nuisances.

Advocates for medical marijuana claim the law permits such sales, and that closing the dispensaries leads many vulnerable patients to seek medicine on the black market.

via Freep

Michigan Supreme Court to hear medical marijuana case

LANSING — The Michigan Supreme Court agreed Wednesday to decide a key issue in the wide-ranging disputes over Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law: whether registered patients can sell marijuana to other registered patients.

An appeals court decision last year prohibiting such sales resulted in the closure of dozens of so-called marijuana dispensaries across the state.

“I think this is one of the most important cases (the court) will hear this year,” said Mary Chartier, a Lansing attorney who represents the owners of a closed marijuana retail facility in Mt. Pleasant that was targeted by the Isabella County Prosecutor’s Office in 2010 as a public nuisance.

“It has far-reaching implications for tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of people,” Chartier said.

The case involves the Compassionate Apothecary, where registered patient customers bought pot from stock provided by other registered patients in transactions facilitated by the dispensary’s owners.

A lower court found that patient-to-patient sales were permitted under Michigan law and allowed the dispensary to remain in operation. It closed after last year’s appellate ruling.

Prosecutors and Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette argue that the only sales of marijuana allowed under the law are those by a registered caregiver to his or her registered patients. They asked the courts to order Compassionate Apothecary and other retail sales outlets closed.

Chartier said she thinks the Supreme Court will recognize that the statute, approved by voters 63%-37% in 2008, clearly permits the transfer of marijuana between patients registered under the act — as dispensaries had been doing until the appellate court ruling, she said. Without such a mechanism, vulnerable patients often are forced to seek medication on the illegal black market, Chartier said.

Schuette spokeswoman Joy Yearout said in a statement after the high court agreed to hear the case: “The Court of Appeals decision echoed the concerns of law enforcement and communities struggling with the negative impact of illegal sales, and we expect that the Supreme Court will support the lower court’s opinion.”

Other legal battles over the medical marijuana law have arisen over undercover police stings at dispensaries, whether patients are protected by the law prior to obtaining state registration and the conditions under which plants can be grown and stored.

via Freep

Obama’s War on Pot

In a shocking about-face, the administration has launched a government-wide crackdown on medical marijuana

Back when he was running for president in 2008, Barack Obama insisted that medical marijuana was an issue best left to state and local governments. “I’m not going to be using Justice Department resources to try to circumvent state laws on this issue,” he vowed, promising an end to the Bush administration’s high-profile raids on providers of medical pot, which is legal in 16 states and the District of Columbia.

But over the past year, the Obama administration has quietly unleashed a multi­agency crackdown on medical cannabis that goes far beyond anything undertaken by George W. Bush. The feds are busting growers who operate in full compliance with state laws, vowing to seize the property of anyone who dares to even rent to legal pot dispensaries, and threatening to imprison state employees responsible for regulating medical marijuana. With more than 100 raids on pot dispensaries during his first three years, Obama is now on pace to exceed Bush’s record for medical-marijuana busts. “There’s no question that Obama’s the worst president on medical marijuana,” says Rob Kampia, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project. “He’s gone from first to worst.”

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Patient, Caregiver Mistreatment Violates Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act

By Michael Komorn

In November of 2008, the residents of the state of Michigan were heard, overwhelmingly approving the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act with a nearly two-thirds vote. More than three years later, the very provisions and protections afforded in the act — that, again, a vast majority of voters approved — are non-existent. Patients and caregivers are constantly harassed and arrested, despite going to great lengths to comply with the act.

The state’s failure to provide registration cards in a timely manner has resulted in arrests of sick and elderly patients, home raids and searches, and an immeasurable amount of stress and financial burden on those simply seeking relief from a chronic illness. Add to that the fear many doctors have of legal repercussions for approving patients and many courts’ plain refusal to hear a medical marijuana defense, and it’s clear the state is neither listening to, nor respecting its residents and their choices.

Recent efforts in Lansing to overregulate medical marijuana are a clear sign of legislators working to render the act obsolete. This legislative grappling for more regulation borders on an invasion of privacy, when the proposed requirements mandate that personal information be provided to state police. Other proposed legislation restricts patient access to medicine and requires a photo on the very same registry cards that currently take months to receive. In addition, no new conditions have been added to the registry despite multiple public submissions. Yet, legislation is quick to act on amending the law, reconvening February 23, without providing any further protections for patients or caregivers.

While legislators are willing to listen to advocacy and opponent groups, albeit in a single two-hour session, unless the final outcome supports the current act and its patient protections, the discussions will be for naught. One major issue is that the state has never truly implemented the act. This major failure on the part of both the executive and judicial branches have allowed registered patients to be arrested, many courts disallowing a medical marijuana defense and ignoring the popular vote that approved the act.

Furthermore, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association would like to see a resolution for a patients’ bill of rights, guaranteeing many of the protections that should have been implemented via the act, but have not been. These rights include equal protection under the law, the right to safe access to medicine and a presumption of innocence and compliance with the act, along with the absolute right to present a medical marijuana defense to a jury without limitation.

The need for a patient bill of rights is the most important act this legislature can do to ensure that the protections in the act are recognized and acknowledged, as intended by the voters. Any amendment of the act without first codifying these rights for patients and caregivers would be meaningless, as the last four years of failed efforts have shown.

We believe it is time to put the power back in the hands of the people, the very same people who, nearly four years ago, approved medical marijuana. Allow the people to decide how and to what extent they want medical marijuana regulated. This important decision should not be left to isolated legislators in Lansing who are clearly not following the will of the people.

via Huffpost Detroit