Pubdate: Wed, 02 Nov 2011
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2011 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Author: Curt Guyette
Bookmark: (Michigan)


Now Three Years Old, Michigan's Medical Marijuana Law Is Still 
Getting Sorted Out

Marijuana has twice played a role in bringing significant changes to 
the life of Barb Agro.

The first time was a blessing.

A former police dispatcher, the 71-year-old great-grandmother from 
Lake Orion suffers from arthritis in both of her knees.

"It's really bad," she says.

Because she's allergic to aspirin, she used Tylenol to ease the pain 
for years. "But the amount I had to take was so much," she says. "I 
worried about it damaging my kidneys."

Then her son Nick gave her a brownie made with marijuana when she 
visited him at his home in Colorado several years ago. And her life 
immediately changed for the better.

"It was like a godsend," is how she describes the effect the 
controversial medicine had on her. "It was amazing. I could sleep 
without any problem because I wasn't in any pain."

So she persuaded her husband Sal to give it a try. A retired GM 
worker, he'd also spent four decades coaching youth sports.

"That gruff Italian guy who's really a big marshmallow," is the way 
he's described in one newspaper article.

But all those years of throwing footballs and baseballs took their 
toll. He had bone spurs on his neck and shoulders. "He couldn't lift 
his arms over his head," says Barb.

The pot worked for him too.

So the views of this hard-nosed coach and his wife, who had spent 
years working around cops, changed.

"Talk about doing a complete turnaround," Barb says.

Like most parents, they had taken a tough stance regarding drugs when 
their three sons were in their teens. "We told them we better not 
find any of that stuff in the house," recalls Barb, talking with the 
Metro Times from her winter home in Wildwood, Fla.

Now she's a convicted felon, and her husband of 45 years is dead from 
a heart attack suffered a week after Oakland County narcotics 
officers wearing masks and wielding weapons raided their home and 
confiscated 17 plants the Agros believed were being grown legally 
under the medical marijuana law voters approved in November 2008.

As the third anniversary of that ballot measure's passage is being 
marked this week, medical marijuana proponents are trying to figure 
out how to deal with a series of setbacks, as municipalities, police, 
prosecutors and the courts do their best to put a chokehold on the law.

Leading the way is state Attorney General Bill Schuette.

While still serving as an appellate court judge, Schuette helped 
create the group Citizens Protecting Michigan's Kids to spearhead the 
campaign to defeat that act, known as Proposal 1 on the ballot. That 
effort proved to be a spectacular failure, with 63 percent of the 
state's voters disregarding the dire warnings being sounded by 
Schuette and others opposed to allowing patients access to pot.

Since being elected Michigan's chief law enforcement officer one year 
ago, he's acquired newfound power to continue waging the battle 
against medical marijuana, the patients who use it, the caregivers 
who grow it, and the dispensaries where it is sold.

As attorney general, Schuette is able to set the tone for cops and 
prosecutors across the state. And the legal opinions that he writes, 
though lacking the force of law, are given careful consideration by 
the state's judges and help inform their decisions.

What Schuette's critics say is that he construes the law in the 
narrowest possible terms, with his opposition to marijuana bordering 
on an obsession. As a result, patient access to medicine is being 
curtailed and there is a growing sense among some that, rather than 
providing them with protection, the law has become a kind of trap for 
those who adhere to the spirit of the measure but don't follow it to 
the letter.

"It's gotten really scary for a lot of people," says Brandy Zink, who 
is with the group Americans for Safe Access. "For some, the feeling 
is that having a medical marijuana card is like having a target on 
your back. Because of what the state is doing, they are considering 
going back underground."

Others, she says, are looking for ways to fight back.

The Agros can be counted among them.

House of cards

After the state's medical marijuana law took effect, Sal and Barb 
Agro became certified patients. Rather than smoke it, they preferred 
to ingest their medicine in baked goods made with marijuana butter. 
They also used topical marijuana oil, rubbing it on sore joints to 
help alleviate the pain.

One problem with the law is there is no explicit provision allowing 
for these types of products. It is one of many so-called gray areas 
that have thrown a cloud of confusion over the whole issue.

In fact, few things about the law seem indisputable. But this much is 
certain: Patients who receive a recommendation from a doctor and 
register with the state are allowed to grow as many as 12 plants and 
possess as much as 2.5 ounces of smokable marijuana.

Those unable to grow their own pot can designate someone else to be 
their "caregiver." Caregivers, like patients, must be certified by 
the state. Each caregiver can have as many as five patients. Because 
caregivers can also be patients, it is possible that a single 
caregiver with the maximum number of patients can have has many as 72 
plants growing at any one time.

According to those involved in drafting what is officially known as 
Michigan's Medical Marihuana Act, the limits were put in place in 
order to keep grow operations small enough to avoid attracting the 
interest of the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.

That is an important point because of this crucial factor: Even 
though medical marijuana laws have been passed in 16 states and the 
District of Columbia, pot remains illegal under federal law. In fact, 
it is still classified as a Schedule 1 controlled substance along 
with drugs such as heroin. Ironically, one of the distinguishing 
features of a Schedule 1 drug is that it is considered by the U.S. 
government to have no accepted medical use.

For its part, the Obama administration has done a good job of making 
an uncertain situation even more unsettled by sending decidedly mixed signals.

As Zink points out, following eight years of open hostility from the 
George W. Bush administration, people "got high on hope" when the 
more liberal Obama moved into the White House.

And, in the beginning, that hope proved to be justified.

In an October 2009 memo, David Ogden, then the deputy attorney 
general, told U.S. attorneys around the country that, "as a general 
matter" they "should not focus federal resources" on "individuals 
whose actions are in clear and unambiguous compliance with existing 
state laws providing for the medical use of marijuana."

But, as the Los Angeles Times reported this October, "... the Obama 
administration has been steadily ratcheting up enforcement efforts. 
Also last month, a federal firearms official sent a letter to gun 
dealers warning them against selling to medical marijuana users. The 
last bank in Colorado willing to handle money from dispensaries 
closed those accounts last week, concerned about federal prosecution. 
And the Internal Revenue Service has begun to order some dispensaries 
to pay millions of dollars in back taxes and penalties, ruling that 
they can't deduct expenses because their business is illegal."

"It is disingenuous of the Obama Administration to say it is not 
attacking patients while obstructing the implementation of local and 
state medical marijuana laws," Steph Sherer, executive director of 
Americans for Safe Access, told reporters earlier this year. "The 
president is using intimidation tactics to stop elected officials 
from serving their constituents, thereby pushing patients into the 
illicit market."

As a result, it can't be said that any use of marijuana in Michigan 
- -- even by certified patients -- is strictly legal. Instead, the 
state's law is designed to protect qualified patients and caregivers 
from arrest and prosecution by state and local authorities.

At least that is what the advocates who drafted it intended.

But, as the Agros and others have discovered, police, prosecutors and 
now the courts -- by interpreting the law in the narrowest of ways -- 
have made any involvement with medical marijuana a potentially 
precarious venture.

That's especially true for those who set up dispensaries such as 
Clinical Relief, which was located in Ferndale until narcotics 
officers from the Oakland County Sheriff's Department raided it last year.

Nick and Tony Agro -- the sons of Sal and Barb -- were two of the 
people running the clinic, which was modeled on similar operations 
that Nick co-owned in Colorado.

Although the Michigan law approved by voters didn't explicitly allow 
for dispensaries, it didn't say they were prohibited either.

It is easy to see why an entrepreneur like Nick Agro would think a 
place such as Clinical Relief would be legal. After all, it was 
Schuette himself, while still an appellate court judge campaigning 
against the measure, who declared, "There is not a single paragraph, 
sentence or word within Proposal 1 that prohibits pot shops from 
opening in Michigan. ..."

 From the patient point of view, that's a good thing.

For one thing, as Zink of ASA says, there are not nearly enough 
certified caregivers to grow the medicine needed for the nearly 
119,000 patients currently approved by the state.

Complicating matters is the fact that patients who don't own their 
own homes are at the mercy of landlords. (Zink herself says she had 
to mount a fight to stay in an apartment owned by a landlord who 
objected to her simply "medicating.")

Obtaining the material to get started can be difficult. One 
acknowledged shortcoming of the law is that it contains no specific 
provisions saying that anyone can legally sell the seeds or clones 
needed for a patient to begin growing. Also, the equipment is costly 
- -- and that expense can be an impediment for patients who are too 
sick to work and living on disability payments. It can also take four 
months or more to go from seed to the point where a plant becomes medicine.

There are other factors as well, such as crop failures. Add it all 
together, advocates say, and it only makes sense that patients have a 
stable, independent source that can provide them with medicine when 
they are in need.

"People need to have access to their medicine," says Zink. A viable 
network of dispensaries appears to be the only way to guarantee that access.

And so, the Agros say, they were careful to make sure everything was 
done "by the book" when setting up Clinical Relief. They worked with 
the city hall in Ferndale. They had the mayor come by for a visit. 
The chief of police did a walk-through.

When it opened for business, dozens of patients a day began rolling 
in -- sometimes literally, using wheelchairs.

Among those seeking medicine were cancer victims, some of them 
terminally ill. There were also MS patients and people suffering from 
migraines or ruptured discs in their backs. Others appeared to be 
perfectly healthy, but Barb Agro, who worked as the clinic's 
receptionist, learned that looks can be deceiving.

She tells the story of two young men who came in. One of them, a 
good-looking guy she figured to be about 25, showed his card and went 
to obtain his meds. The other took a seat. They ended up talking, and 
he said that he was the other guy's driver; the fellow getting meds 
couldn't obtain a license because he suffered from epilepsy.

"And here I was thinking, 'He doesn't really need this.'"

Although it is impossible to say with certainty how many recreational 
users obtain cards as a way of avoiding arrest, there is no doubt 
they are out there, as are doctors who will write a recommendation 
for anyone who walks through their door and has the money to pay.

"There's crooks in every business," Barb Agro says.

For the most part, though, she saw the clinic as a place that 
provided a legitimate service to people who very much needed it.

Then, on Aug. 26 last year, Oakland County narcs came storming in, 
wearing ski masks and holding guns. They forced her to the floor and 
handcuffed her and the others who were there. Records and equipment 
were confiscated. Cash and pot that Nick Agro estimates together 
amounted to about $80,000 or $90,000 were taken as well.

Such seizures are a big part of the motivation for such raids, 
asserts Nick Agro. With the money getting divvied up between the 
Oakland County Sheriff's Office and the Prosecutor's Office, it 
amounts to nothing more than "policing for profit," he says.

The law enforcement side, not surprisingly, presents a much different 
view. The way they see it, large numbers of people are attempting to 
take advantage of the law, looking to make a profit by slipping 
through every loophole they can find.

"Across Michigan, our communities are struggling with an invasion of 
pot shops near their schools, homes and churches," Schuette said last 
week to explain why his office was joining in a civil suit brought by 
Chesterfield Township against Big Daddy's dispensary. "Local 
governments have the right to protect their communities from illegal 
marijuana dispensaries."

(Unlike Clinical Relief, which authorities claim was operating 
illegally, Chesterfield Township -- and now the AG's office -- are 
trying to force Big Daddy's closure by seeking a court ruling that 
the facility is a "public nuisance.")

At the same time Clinical Relief was being raided, members of Oakland 
County's Narcotics Enforcement Team also hit Everybody's Cafe 
dispensary in Waterford Township and some private residences 
associated with the businesses -- including the home of Barb and Sal 
Agro, and the homes of their sons Nick and Tony.

As with other dispensaries in the state -- by some estimates there 
were as many as 200 to 300 in operation before authorities began 
cracking down on them -- they operated under the premise that, as 
long as the transactions were occurring between certified patients on 
both ends of the deal, the sales were legal under the law.

Oakland Sheriff Mike Bouchard painted a much different picture. After 
the raids, he did his best to depict the dispensaries and the grow 
operations that supplied them as truly nefarious.

According to news reports, Bouchard claimed that undercover officers 
"observed the clinics selling marijuana to customers without 
state-issued ID cards and that associated caregivers were growing 
more plants and had more patients than allowed under state law."

(Among other things, it has since come to light that, in the case of 
Clinical Relief, undercover narcotics officers made purchases using 
realistic-looking state medical marijuana ID cards that they had 
created themselves.)

Bouchard also claimed that the businesses were being operated like an 
"organized crime" ring.

At least 15 people were charged as a result of those raids conducted 
in August of 2010. Among them were Barb, Nick and Tony Agro.

That was before any so-called test cases began working their way 
through the courts. Since then, a three-judge panel on the Michigan 
Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling, declaring in August 
of this year that the "medical use of marijuana, as defined by the 
Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, does not include patient-to-patient 
sales of marijuana, and no other provision of the MMMA can be read to 
permit such sales."

Not all dispensaries have closed as a result of that ruling, however. 
Part of the reason for that, it appears, is that it is up to 
individual county prosecutors to determine if they want to take a 
hard line or not.

For the time being, at least, dispensaries in Wayne and Washtenaw 
counties appear to be operating without problem. In Oakland County, 
on the other hand, it is beyond risky business.

As for the Agros, their problems didn't end with the raid on Clinical Relief.

Stacked deck

Just as she believed the dispensary was operating well within the 
law, Barb Agro felt confident there were no problems with the small 
grow operation she and Sal had going at their home in Lake Orion.

Which is why, when one of the deputies asked if there were plants 
growing at her home, she had no qualms about answering truthfully. 
She gave a statement saying that both she and her husband were 
certified as patients and caregivers. That allowed them to grow 
legally. She said there were about 17 plants in their basement.

As the clinic was being raided, the cops were also searching the 
homes belonging to sons Nick and Tony. A neighbor of one jumped in 
her car and drove to tell Sal what was happening. Sal rushed out of 
the house and sped over to make sure his family members -- including 
his grandkids -- were safe. In his rush, says Barbara, he left his 
wallet on the table and the door to their house unlocked.

When he returned home, police were there searching the place. They 
ripped out the plants and seized $11,270 in cash. Barb Agro says that 
$11,000 was kept in a lock box in anticipation of putting a down 
payment on a car they were planning to purchase. The $270, she says, 
was taken from the wallet Sal had left behind.

Because their house was unlocked at the time, the couple was charged 
with growing illegally. The law states that marijuana being grown by 
patients or caregivers needs to be kept in a locked enclosure.

Sal never lived to have his day in court. He died of a heart attack 
about a week after the raid. His family blames the stress of the bust 
for his death.

As for Barb, she went on trial this past June. One of the significant 
aspects of the proceedings was the Oakland County Prosecutor's 
Office's argument that the jury shouldn't be allowed to hear that 
Barb was a patient and caregiver. The contention was that, because 
the plants weren't in a locked enclosure, Barbara Agro wasn't in 
compliance with the medical marijuana law. And because she wasn't in 
compliance, she could not use the fact that she was a patient when 
attempting to mount a defense.

The judge agreed with the prosecution. When some members of the jury 
sent notes to the judge asking if Agro was indeed a patient, the 
judge informed them that the question couldn't be answered.

The verdict came back "guilty."

Agro was sentenced to 90 days of probation and ordered to perform 20 
hours of community service.

An appeal of the conviction is planned. The argument will be that the 
jury should have been allowed to hear that Agro was growing pot as a patient.

Attorney Neil Rockind, who represents one of the other 
owner-operators of Clinical Relief, says the notion that someone on 
trial can't tell a jury the circumstances behind their case is 
particularly troubling.

You don't need to be a lawyer to see the unfairness inherent in that.

Rockind is also troubled by the cops and prosecutors who bring the 
full force of the law down to bear on people who are attempting to 
comply with the act, but fail to follow every aspect of it completely.

There is such a thing as discretion, he says. You don't have to try 
to lock up everyone who does something that puts them out of compliance.

There is a case in Shiawassee County where a certified patient was 
growing the proper number of plants in a dog kennel that was fenced, 
the gate locked. The problem was the enclosure lacked a roof. After 
the trial court dismissed the charges, the Court of Appeals ordered 
them reinstated. The state Supreme Court has agreed to hear the case.

As Rockind points out, the authorities, instead of prosecuting, could 
just as easily have told the guy his growing situation didn't meet 
the standards laid out in the law and given him a week to correct it.

The case of Barb Agro, he says, represents the "epitome" of that kind 
of prosecutorial abuse.

Despite the hardships, Agro remains cheerful, her spirits buoyed by 
the fact "our consciences are clear."

"We were following the law," she asserts. "And we were helping people 
who need help."

The only real pain, she says, is the heartache of losing the man who 
shared his life with her for 45 years.

"Compared to that," she says, "Everything else is a piece of cake."

Her legal problems don't end with the appeal, however. She and her 
sons Nick and Tony, along with others arrested following the raid on 
the Clinical Relief dispensary, are scheduled to go on trial in January.

Attorney Rockind, looking at the bigger picture, thinks part of the 
problem is that public officials aren't used to seeing the public 
rise up and take power away from them.

"Government doesn't like the idea of something that's long been 
illegal, all of a sudden they can't get to it. And that's what the 
medical marijuana act did -- it took power away from government and 
gave it to individuals."

The mistake some made was believing the struggle ended in 2008, when 
the measure passed.

"People were thinking the war was over," Rockind says. "But for it to 
really be over, the other side has to agree that it is over. But that 
hasn't happened yet."

Wild cards

As it stands now, most of the court rulings having been against those 
who want the state's medical marijuana law viewed in a way that gives 
patients easy access to medicine and offers broad protection from prosecution.

Gerald Fisher is an attorney and professor at the Thomas M. Cooley 
Law School in Auburn Hills. Last year, working as a consultant for 
the Michigan Municipal League and the Michigan Townships Association, 
Fisher studied the issue.

Fisher tells Metro Times that at least part of the problem is that 
those who drafted the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act created 
intentional ambiguities in an attempt to "go as far toward 
legalization as possible."

Fisher doubts that any form of medical marijuana legalization at the 
state level is valid because federal law is pre-eminent. That view 
was bolstered recently when a Wayne County judge sided with the city 
of Livonia, which had instituted a far-reaching anti-medical 
marijuana ordinance that has as its centerpiece the prohibition of 
any "enterprises or purposes that are contrary to federal, state or 
local laws or ordinances ..."

The ACLU, representing two patients who own property in the city, 
sought to have the ordinance declared illegal.

"The ACLU readily admitted that the federal Controlled Substances Act 
prohibits all of the activity authorized by the Michigan Medical 
Marihuana Act," said Livonia City Attorney Don Knapp following the 
ruling by Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Wendy Baxter. 
"Nevertheless, they wanted the courts to ignore that obvious fact and 
strike down Livonia's zoning ordinance which prohibits violations of 
federal law. Judge Baxter recognized this conflict of laws and held 
that state law is pre-empted by federal law."

The ruling is being appealed by the ACLU. It is likely that, whatever 
the Court of Appeals decides, the issue will remain unresolved until 
the state's high court hears the case.

At this point though, Fisher's view is that those who drafted the law 
"did no one any favors by putting so many ambiguities in there."

Attorney Karen O'Keefe is with the nonprofit activist group Marijuana 
Policy Project based in Washington, D.C. A Michigan native, she 
played a key role in drafting the language of Michigan's medical marijuana law.

At the time it was written, she says, no state had a law on the books 
regulating dispensaries. (That situation has changed since then: 
Colorado, for one, now regulates and taxes dispensaries. Although 
California has long had storefront shops, they have yet to be 
directly authorized under that state's laws.)

She says that, lacking any model for state-approved dispensaries when 
Michigan's law was being prepared to go before voters, ambiguity 
regarding distribution was necessary to put the measure in the best 
position to be passed.

"There's no question that explicitly allowing dispensaries at that 
stage would have complicated the issue," she says.

The way she sees it, though, the main problem with the law isn't the 
way it is written, but rather the refusal of opponents to accept the 
will of Michigan's voters. As for claims that the public was duped, 
she points out that, three years after the law passed, with voters 
having had plenty of opportunity to see how it is working, the level 
of support remains virtually unchanged. A poll conducted by Marketing 
Resource Group, Inc., earlier this year found that 59 percent of 
voters would approve the law, while 35 percent would not. Two percent 
leaned toward approving, while 2 percent leaned against.

Which means that the real backlash is coming from politicians and law 
enforcement, not the general public. There doesn't seem to have been 
any picketing being done by outraged citizens trying to drive 
dispensaries out of business. Instead, it is law enforcement that is 
clamping down, and local municipalities that are passing laws that 
attempt to stop not just dispensaries but also cultivation.

"It doesn't look like voters have changed their minds," O'Keefe says. 
"That's what makes the backlash we're seeing particularly surprising."

Surprising, maybe. But it is intense nonetheless.

According to the MPP, "no less than 16" bills that attempt to rein in 
the state's medical marijuana law have been introduced in the 
Michigan Legislature. According to the group, the "most alarming" of 
these bills "would essentially nullify the law's core protections in 
some or all of the state. ..."

Fortunately for those who want to see patients and caregivers 
protected, any bill that seeks to change the voter-approved measure 
would have to obtain a super-majority of 75 percent in both houses of 
the Legislature.

The state attorney general, however, doesn't face that kind of 
constraint. And Schuette, regardless of what opinion polls might say 
in terms of public support of the law, continues to keep sounding the 
alarm. In an opinion piece published in the Detroit Free Press 
earlier this year, the state's attorney general wrote:

"As a result of the way the law was written, Michigan's law 
enforcement community is rightly concerned about the sales and use of 
marijuana getting out of control, which puts everyone's safety at 
risk. That is why I will continue working with prosecutors, police, 
the Legislature and the courts to ensure the law is used as the 
voters intended, not as a vehicle for criminal behavior that 
endangers our families and communities."

It is that sort of characterization that infuriates those on the 
other side of the issue.

Winning hand?

Jamie Lowell is one of the founders of the Third Coast Compassion 
Center in Ypsilanti. Despite the crackdown going on in some other 
parts of the state, his Washtenaw County facility remains open, 
providing patients with a choice of medicines.

It is not exactly a comfortable spot to be in these days. But he and 
others continue to remain open for business, hoping that, despite the 
adverse court rulings that have determined that at least some forms 
of dispensaries are illegal, the approach being taken at Third Coast 
will hold up if ever tested.

The way Lowell sees it, the only real problem with dispensaries are 
the ones being caused by the authorities.

"In places where they are being left alone, we are seeing lots of 
positive results," he says. "The problems are all coming from those 
in opposition. Health and safety aren't a problem. The problem is 
raids and criminal charges and civil suits. It is this opposition 
that wants to keep presenting the facade that there are serious 
problems going on, but that's not really true."

The question being raised by Lowell and others in the same camp is, 
"What do we do now?"

There's little disagreement that the answer to that question is 
political action. What makes things complicated is trying to figure 
out the exact form that action should take.

Lowell thinks that members of the "community" need to organize 
politically and campaign either for or against specific candidates 
based on what their position is regarding the MMMA. "We need better 
lawmakers," he says. "And we need better judges."

(There is currently a campaign to recall Schuette under way. But, 
given that a much-higher-profile effort to recall Gov. Rick Snyder 
failed to collect the more than 800,000 signatures to get the recall 
on the ballot, the campaign to collect the same number of names to 
get a Schuette recall on the ballot seems an extreme long-shot at best.)

Although Lowell's allies in the movement don't disagree with the idea 
that patients and caregivers should be looking to reward supportive 
politicians with donations, campaign help and votes, not everyone 
agrees that is where the primary focus of political efforts should be 
at this point.

This is a movement where there are different competing interests, 
sometimes directly at odds with each other. What's good for those who 
want to use recreationally isn't necessarily good for patients. While 
some advocates may think a proposal to regulate and tax operations is 
a sure way to gain public support at a time when public coffers at 
every level are painfully thin, those in it strictly to make money 
may not be all that eager to start turning over a share of their 
profits to the taxman.

Both Americans for Safe Access and the Marijuana Policy Project are 
working on draft legislation intended to strengthen the rights of 
patients and ensure they have easy access to medicine.

"There is a lot of infighting that goes on," says Greg Francisco, 
founder of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.

Complicating matters even more is the fact that, if you look at the 
history of this movement, politicians tend to follow the public's 
lead rather than getting out in front and setting the agenda. That's 
why advocates had to go through the expense and tremendous effort of 
gathering signatures to get the MMMA in front of voters.

Brandy Zink, of ASA, notes that she worked for a decade as a lobbyist 
in Ohio without having any legislative success there. She thinks the 
same is likely to be true of Michigan.

Which is why she is among a group of people who meet weekly at the 
Detroit offices of attorney Matt Abel, who heads a practice that 
focuses exclusively on marijuana issues.

Abel says that he is mystified by many of the rulings he's seeing 
handed down. And, although he remains hopeful that the state Supreme 
Court will reverse the exceptionally narrow interpretation being 
displayed by the Court of Appeals, he's also not taking any chances.

At this point, he says, much consideration is being given to the idea 
of going back to the state's voters with another ballot measure. 
There is a possibility that something could be ready in time for the 
November 2012 presidential election.

It won't be easy. Such efforts are expensive, usually costing upward 
of $1 million. And those participating in the discussions have yet to 
reach a consensus on the best tack to take.

Should voters be asked to support a measure that explicitly calls for 
the legalization of dispensaries? Or a measure that calls for 
decriminalization for everyone? Or should they go all the way and 
seek to completely end prohibition in Michigan?

In some respects, that approach, he says, helps both recreational 
users and patients. Certainly, the sort of attacks on patient and 
caregiver rights that is currently being mounted by Attorney General 
Schuette would be derailed.

And even if it didn't contain language calling for taxation (the 
Legislature could always pursue that if it wanted to after the 
measure passed), a fair number of voters who have no desire to ever 
fire up a joint might be won over by the savings that would be 
realized by locking up far fewer people and having law enforcement 
freed up to spend more time trying to catch murderers and robbers and 
rapists instead of spending precious resources pursuing people like 
Barb and Sal Agro.

As complicated as it all can be, one thing remains clear: If there is 
not concerted political action by those who believe that marijuana is 
a legitimate and useful treatment for a wide variety of afflictions, 
then the forces of opposition are going to continue whittling away at 
the progress represented by the passage of the Medical Marihuana Act 
three years ago.

Standing by and relying on the courts and politicians isn't really a 
viable option.

"People on our side have no choice but to fight," Abel says.

What remains to be seen is whether the disparate fingers of this 
movement will remain separate, or if they can be clenched into a fist.
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom