THE BLOG
05/17/2013 01:47 pm ET Updated Jul 16, 2013

Michigan Welfare Drug Testing Law Needs Medical Marihuana Exemption

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Earlier this month, the Michigan House approved legislation requiring welfare recipients to pass a random drug screening test to remain eligible for family independence programs if there is a "reasonable suspicion" of drug activity. While the legislation is intended to prevent Michigan residents from abusing the public welfare system, failure to protect medical marihuana patients is suspect and poised to undermine the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) and those who voted for it.

In late April, amendments to the bill were suggested, including exempting medical marihuana patients from testing because they have been given permission by the state of Michigan to use marihuana. The addendums, however, failed to gain traction.

With a goal to remove drug users and abusers from public assistance, lawmakers have potentially jeopardized the more than 120,000 medical marihuana patients in the state, some of whom rely on public assistance, disability and social security to survive. If state-approved patients test positive, they are at risk of losing needed assistance, even though they are following the letter of Michigan law.

The real question is why was the medical marihuana exemption denied? While the existence of federal funds in the state's welfare program may have played a part, states, Michigan included, have not shied away from taking the federal government to task in such disagreements.

Just last year, Michigan's Attorney General joined several states in suing over President Obama's health care plan. In this instance, as well as Arizona's enacting of an immigration law, Michigan acted in the interest of all of its residents, protecting the 10th Amendment and preserving states' rights.

Given that President Obama has made clear his lack of intention to prosecute medical marihuana patients, allowing an exemption for patients could be justified and accepted if the state were willing to fight for it.

The lack of a medical marihuana exemption is an unfortunate example of the state failing to protect patients despite the existence of a law that was approved by its residents. With medical marihuana's legality at the state level, this legislation feels like yet another discounting of patients -- their health, lives and families -- just months after legislators in Lansing passed several amendments to the MMMA in an attempt to clarify the law for patients and lawmakers.