Monthly Archives: August 2013

Report: Justice Dept. won’t challenge state marijuana laws

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department will not attempt to challenge state laws that allow for the medical and recreational use of marijuana as long as the drug sales do not conflict with eight new federal enforcement priorities.

Those include the distribution of marijuana to minors and sales that assist or act as cover for trafficking operations, according to a directive that is being issued today to federal prosecutors across the country.

Although the directive issued by Attorney General Eric Holder will apply nationwide, it will largely affect the 20 states and the District of Columbia that allow for medical marijuana use, and Colorado and Washington where state laws allow medical and recreational use by adults.

A Justice official, who was briefed on the directive but not authorized to comment publicly, said Holder briefed the governors of Colorado and Washington earlier Thursday on the new prosecutorial directive in a conference call. Federal prosecutors were expected to begin briefing authorities in other states later today.

The new guidelines do not change marijuana’s classification as an illegal drug, the official said. But the document effectively discourages the pursuit of individual non-violent marijuana users who have no links to criminal gangs or cartel operations.

The document contains a list of eight new federal enforcement priorities, which is expected to guide federal authorities when weighing decisions on marijuana prosecutions. It also notified state authorities that the federal government will intervene if the states violate those priorities, including the distribution of marijuana to minors.

via USA Today

MI Court of Appeals hears arguments in medical marijuana dispensary cases

Michigan’s Court of Appeals (COA) heard oral arguments on August 6 pertaining to several cases in which medical marijuana patients and/or caregivers are alleged to have sold medical marijuana, in 2010, to undercover officers who were posing as legitimate patients.

Law enforcement authorities and the Oakland Co. prosecutor’s office have claimed that the Clinical Relief employees and associates were operating an illegal dispensary. The attorneys for the Clinical Relief defendants filed motions to dismiss their criminal charges based on the common law rule of lenity. They argued that, at the time the alleged illegal acts occurred, Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) was ambiguous regarding patient-to-patient sales of medical marijuana and that their clients did not receive a fair warning that their dispensary activities were unlawful.

At the time of the raid conducted at Clinical Relief, no published appellate opinions had been issued regarding the legality of patient-to-patient sales of medical marijuana in Michigan.

On January 11, 2012, Oakland County Circuit Judge Daniel O’Brien agreed with the defense and held that the rule of lenity was applicable to the facts of their cases. He then dismissed all charges brought against Anthony Agro, Barbara Agro and Nicholas Agro, Ryan Richmond, Barbara Johnson, Ryan Fleissner, and Matthew Curtis.

The prosecutor appealed Judge O’Brien’s dismissals in the Clinical Relief case to the COA, who held oral arguments in the matter on August 6, 2013. (This reporter videotaped the People v Clinical Relief oral arguments, which are streaming online at: http://vimeo.com/71930675 )

In a somewhat related appeal, also heard by the COA on August 6, the defense in the case of People v Jason VanSickle argued that Judge O’Brien erred when he declined to dismiss similar charges filed against his client. VanSickle allegedly sold medical marijuana to undercover officers outside of the Clinical Relief facilities. The Oakland Press reported on July 15, 2011 that Van Sickle’s defense attorney, Jim Rasor, said “VanSickle assumed undercover detectives, who had patient cards, were legitimate medical marijuana patients.” (This reporter also videotaped the People v VanSickle oral arguments, which are streaming online at: http://vimeo.com/71937695 )

Oakland County Assistant Prosecutor Danielle Walton represented the prosecution in the Clinical Relief appeal. The Clinical Relief defendants were represented in the trial court by attorneys Thomas Loeb, Cheryl Carpenter, Neil Rockind, Steve Fishman, Paul Tylenda, Jerry Sabota, and Matt Shepherd. They defendants were also represented by appellate attorney Stuart Friedman.

It is unknown at this time how long the COA will take to release its opinions in the Clinical Relief and VanSickle cases.

via The Examiner

Michigan panel denies autism, asthma as eligible conditions for medical marijuana use

It pains Jenny Allen to see her 6-year-old autistic son bang his head against the floor and bite himself, knowing there is little she can do to calm him.

After her son was diagnosed with autism at age 2, the Lansing woman placed him on a variety of diets, psychiatric therapies and medications, but they did little to mitigate his symptoms. She had long hoped she could one day try medical marijuana as a treatment — perhaps put some of the herb into a brownie to see if it helps her son.

Tuesday, she said, that hope was dashed as she watched the Michigan Medical Marijuana Review Panel reject a petition to add autism as an eligible condition for which medical marijuana can be used in the state. The vote was 2-7 against; one panel member was absent.

“I’m incredibly disappointed,” Allen, 32 said after the meeting. “The decision on autism was incredibly poorly informed.”

The ruling was among the first actions taken by the newly reconstituted panel — three months after the state disbanded it because the state Licensing and Regulatory Authority didn’t follow state administrative rules when it appointed the group. It was mandated by Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law, and state officials missed a statutory deadline to appoint its members by three years.

The new panel met Tuesday for the first time to conduct business, even though it’s unclear whether it can operate because it still lacks the required number of members. At issue is the fact that the 10-member panel has six members who also serve on the state’s Advisory Committee on Pain and Symptom Management. State administrative rules enacted in 2009 require the panel to have seven members from that committee.

State officials say the panel can conduct business as long as there is a quorum present at the meeting. Officials say Gov. Rick Snyder is preparing to fill a vacancy on the advisory committee that will allow the state to fill the final, 10th position on the panel.

“I feel like we are on the right path,” said Carole Engle, director of LARA’s Bureau of Health Care Services, which created the panel under a 2008 medical marijuana law.

The panel is the only process by which eligible conditions for medical marijuana use can be added. Under the law, residents can use medical marijuana, with a doctor’s approval, only for specific ailments, including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS and Crohn’s disease.

The previous panel also considered autism, and following a public hearing, decided not to recommend it to LARA for approval. Steve Arwood, LARA’s director, makes the final decision on whether to add a new eligible condition.

On Tuesday, two panel members cited anecdotal evidence that medical marijuana can benefit both autistic adults and children, helping them cope better with the people around them. David Brogren, an insurance agent from Bloomfield Hills representing non-physician panel members, said he had learned of a case in which a 11-year-old child could only relate to people as objects, and that marijuana in a brownie helped him empathize with others as people.

But Jeanne Lewandowski, a panel member and director of palliative medicine at St. John Hospital and Medical Center in Detroit, said she was concerned about potentially exposing autistic children to medical marijuana.

“Many of them are children, and there is not enough research on the medical marijuana impact on the developing brain,” she said.

The panel also issued a final rejection to adding asthma as an eligible condition. LARA officials said the panel was able to take final votes on the asthma and autism petitions because the previous incarnation of the panel had considered them.

The panel also took preliminary votes on new petitions to add post traumatic stress disorder and insomnia as qualifying conditions. The panel voted 5-4 to deny the insomnia petition, but approved PTSD in a 6-3 vote.

In both cases, the two petitions will proceed to a public hearing within 60 days — as yet unscheduled —and the panel will vote a second time on whether to forward the petitions on to Arwood for final approval.

The earlier panel decided in April, in a 5-2 vote, to add PTSD and Parkinson’s disease to the list of qualifying conditions. But LARA denied the petitions May 9 because the five yes votes did not constitute a quorum, according to departmental findings signed by Arwood.

via Freep