Pubdate: Wed, 24 Aug 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2011 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Larry Gabriel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal)


AG Would Define Law So Narrowly You'd Need a Foot in the Grave To Qualify

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette came out swinging against 
medical marijuana a couple of weeks ago when he held a press 
conference to announce what could well be called his "Swiss cheese 
offensive." Surrounded by a group of legislators, law enforcement 
officers and health care professionals, Schuette said that the 
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act had been "hijacked" by drug dealers 
and profiteers, and that the law has "as many holes as Swiss cheese."

Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia) repeated the allusion in saying that 
there is an eight-bill package in the state Legislature that will 
"define and fill in those holes in that Swiss cheese."

I bet they don't malign Swiss cheese like that when they order a ham 
on rye sandwich at the local deli. The bottom line is that Schuette 
was against the MMMA before it was enacted and he's against it now 
that it's law.

John Sinclair discussed many of these pending bills in last week's 
column, so I won't go into details. However, since the MMMA is a fact 
of law, Schuette and his cohorts intend to define it so narrowly that 
you practically have to have a foot in the grave to qualify for 
relief. In his press conference, Schuette opined that the law was 
designed, packaged and sold with the intent that medical marijuana 
would be for people with "terminal illness" and to manage "pain at 
the end of life" but that the bill has been "hijacked by pot profiteers."

Schuette and company railed against dispensaries as dangerous to 
children, sounded the alarm about driving while stoned and threatened 
doctors who they say don't have a true relationship with patients 
they give recommendations to. Although they made big deals out of a 
few examples of people running afoul of the law, the speeches seemed 
to be much bigger on platitudes and arguments against the character 
of people involved in medical marijuana than on pertinent facts. It 
seemed like another scare-people-out-of-their-socks tactic from the 
drug war playbook.

Actually all of those things are concerns that many of the state's 
medical marijuana organizations have expressed and taken steps to 
address. However, rather than try to work with forces within the 
community to regulate the industry in a cooperative manner, Schuette 
has chosen a cheesy attitude.

"Whenever Bill Schuette scares people, it makes it easier for me to 
do my job," says Rick Thompson, editor of Michigan Medical Marijuana 
Magazine. "Whenever he's in the newspaper, people start calling me to 
know about the changes to the law. We have a ton of people who seek 
our advice. All of our compassion centers around the state take a lot 
of calls when he's in the paper like that."

Thompson defines his job as selling the magazine, organizing 
activists and educating the public.

Despite the efforts of Thompson and other activists, lately the legal 
tide seems to be flowing against medical marijuana in Michigan. 
Legislators are coming out against it. Walsh mentioned that there may 
be a few more bills added to the package so we don't know the 
entirety of what will be coming down this fall. Recently, Wayne 
County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter dismissed a suit brought by 
the American Civil Liberties Union against a Livonia law banning 
medical marijuana. In another case, 70-year-old Barb Agro, a 
card-carrying medical marijuana patient, was found guilty of growing 
marijuana in Oakland County Circuit Court. In Agro's and other 
Oakland County cases, judges have ruled that defendants cannot use 
the MMMA as a defense when they face marijuana-related charges 
because of technical violations of the law.

Medical marijuana supporters are feeling the pressure and pushing 
back. There is a rally in support of the MMMA scheduled to take place 
on the front steps of the state Capitol at noon Sept. 7. Organizers 
say it's going to be the biggest rally yet, because all of the 
statewide and some national organizations have signed on to 
participate. In the past, there has been bickering between some 
organizations regarding focus and tactics, but everyone seems to be 
on board for this one.

"Finally we're closing ranks, everybody is getting together," says 
Tim Beck, political director for the Michigan Association of 
Compassion Centers. "The community is coming together. The prospect 
of execution has a way of clearing one's mind."

Plans for the rally include an airplane flying over the area with a 
banner message for Schuette. Thompson says that the Teamsters union 
(which represents some medical marijuana compassion center workers) 
will send a busload of supporters to the rally.

"We are trying to inform legislators that the citizenry does not 
support changes to the law," Thompson says. "It's significant that 
Schuette surrounded himself with law enforcement and prosecutors. 
Those are the people who are pushing changes to the medical marijuana 
law, not the patients."

It could be a very interesting day in Lansing. In addition to the 
MMMA supporters, the controversial Koran-burning Rev. Terry Jones, 
who has a court appearance scheduled in Detroit on Sept. 8, also has 
a rally scheduled on the back steps of the state Capitol on Sept. 7. 
Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero is planning a counter-Jones peace rally 
for the day. There could be a lot of media around, possibly national, 
to carry a message far and wide.

Could there be an epic comedy of errors in Lansing? Terry Jones burns 
a Koran. The police smell the smoke and use it as an excuse to arrest 
the entire crowd of medical marijuana supporters. Then Bernero 
decides to free demonstrators if they agree to be deputized to 
control the Jones crowd.

It's far-fetched, but these are volatile times. Anything could happen.

The legal challenge brought by the Coalition for a Safer Detroit 
against the Detroit Election Commission moved along recently with 
final oral arguments to the state appeals court. In a nutshell, the 
CSD is the organization behind the petition drive to put on the 
ballot the decriminalization of possession of 1 ounce or less of 
marijuana by an adult on private property in Detroit. The Election 
Commission refused to put the question on last year's ballot, 
claiming the proposal ran counter to state law. CSD challenged the 
Election Commission. A lower court sided with the commission against 
the CSD appeal. On Aug. 10, the final stage of oral arguments in the 
appeal took place before Judges Henry Saad, Elizabeth Gleicher and 
Jane Markey. They could rule on the case at any time now.

The basic question is whether a municipality can have a statute that 
runs counter to state law. If the court rules that it can't, there 
are implications across the state for municipalities that already 
have them. For instance, Detroit has a needle exchange program on the 
books (although it's unfunded and not operational) that is illegal 
under state law.

"One way or the other, the implications are stunning," says Tim Beck, 
who is also part of the CSD. "This is turning out to be a bigger deal 
than I ever thought."

If the court rules for the CSD, Detroiters could see it on the ballot 
as soon as this November. That is, if the state allows the proposed 
city charter to be voted on in this election cycle. That is 
questionable because the governor and attorney general have 
objections to several provisions in the proposed charter.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom