THE BLOG
03/13/2013 05:27 pm ET Updated May 13, 2013

Defining Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Michigan

Michigan is struggling to settle in with the implementation of its five-year-old medical marijuana law. Understandable, really, as we are shifting a mindset that has been ingrained in us for the past 43 years. Since Richard Nixon started the war on drugs, followed by Nancy Reagan telling us to just say no, most of us have accepted the paradigm. We were oblivious to the medicinal qualities of marijuana because that was not a component of the public relations campaign being sold to us. That part is over. There are hundreds of studies we can all read and the information is now at our fingertips. Open-minded free thinkers have everything they need to break out of the paradigm. Unfortunately, some of our elected officials don't fall into that category.

I am a state-approved medical marijuana patient and have a friend who has run a dispensary for four years, starting in the first year that Michigan voters made this possible. He has been raided three times and had a significant portion of his belongings confiscated twice. I won't comment on the details of his current case until it is resolved. As I followed him through this brutal process and attempted to make sense of the whole thing, I began to see what the real issue was.

The quote below speaks to the crux of the problem in Michigan as the state tries to figure out how to define a medical marijuana dispensary. The Michigan Supreme Court has already weighed in on the patient side by unanimously upholding the intent of the law to protect patients this past May. It even went a step further and said that a patient with a preexisting doctor's note did not need to be registered with the state program to be protected.

Part of the problem now is that the law that defined patients' rights so well does not have those same definitions in place for the dispensary system. So law enforcement is trying to navigate this undefined territory using the old rules and mindset.

Many local and law enforcement officials are skeptical about dispensaries. This quote from a former policeman turned mayor is quite telling:

"As a retired police officer, I'd want there to be very tight controls on this -- very tight," said Roseville Mayor John Chirkun. "You set something up like this, people will take the opportunity to skirt the law. They'll sell some (legally) to the person who comes in the front door and sell a lot more out the back door to a drug dealer."

So this mayor's assumption about any person starting up a compassionate care center is that they are fronting for the illegal behavior they really want to engage in.

Pretty pessimistic, Mr. Mayor. And completely absurd as well. Someone who is motivated to sell marijuana illegally is probably not a good candidate to open a storefront and hang out a shingle. This fact is obvious to the rest of us but somehow has eluded you, the guy with police training. And now you, with your archaic Reefer Madness views, are in charge of a small town.

And Mayor Chirkun is not alone. This is a dynamic which is playing out all over the state.

Here's the thing, John, 63 percent of your constituents disagree with you. Almost two-thirds of those folks you see walking around in your town exercised their right to vote this into law five years ago. You are NOT representing them. Your backward thinking is costing patients their ability to access needed meds, but I don't hear you expressing any concern, or even awareness, about that.

That is the real crux of the problem in Michigan. The dispensary system will be defined by the state legislature soon. They are examining a new bipartisan bill this week. That part will be fixed. It is the outdated thinking by non-representative local politicians that has to be made right for this situation to improve.