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.
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