By Steve Elliott
The Michigan Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday that medical marijuana patients aren't automatically breaking the law against driving while impaired if they're caught driving after smoking pot.
The court, in a unanimous decision, overturned an appeals court decision in the case of Rodney Koon, a medical marijuana patient from Grand Traverse County, reports The Associated Press. Koon was stopped in 2010 for speeding, going almost 30 miles per hour over the limit.
He admitted having smoked medical marijuana earlier, and a blood test showed the presence of cannabis in his system.
It's illegal in Michigan to drive while under the influence of marijuana, but the state Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana patients have some protection. The court ruled that police must show a driver was actually impaired -- "under the influence" of marijuana for DUI charges to stick.
The medical marijuana law approved by 63 percent of Michigan's voters in 2008 "shields registered patients for the internal possession of marijuana," the judges unanimously ruled.
At the same time, the law forbids driving "while under the influence of marijuana." But it doesn't set a level above which drivers are considered to be "under the influence," the ruling said.
By Steve Elliott
A Kent County, Michigan judge on Monday ruled that the voter-approved decriminalization of marijuana in Grand Rapids is valid.
Judge Paul Sullivan dismissed Kent County Prosecutor William Forsyth's attempt to nullify the charter amendment, approved by voters last November, reports John Tunison at Mlive.com.
Judge Sullivan ruled that possession of less than 2.5 ounces of cannabis in Grand Rapids can, indeed, be handled as a civil infraction, just as voters had already decided.
Prosecutor Forsyth unsuccessfully argued that the amendment conflicts with Michigan laws classifying marijuana possession as a misdemeanor. He also claimed that decriminalizing weed would "interfere with his responsibilities" as Kent County Prosecutor. (Man, does this cat enjoy busting potheads, or what?)
Even before Judge Sullivan's Monday ruling, Grand Rapids Police had begun following the amendment on May 1, and started writing civil infractions for marijuana possession.
"The voters of Grand Rapids had the power to amend the city charter and plaintiff has failed to show that any section of the charter amendment necessarily conflicts with state law," Judge Sullivan wrote in his ruling.
By Steve Elliott
State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) on Wednesday introduced a bill that would make the possession of up to an ounce of marijuana a civil infraction punishable by a fine, rather than a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail.
"We know, and the people here in Michigan know, that marijuana prohibition is not working," Irwin said during a press conference at the Capitol, reports Jonathan Oosting at Mlive.com.
"Despite the fact that we're spending a minimum of $325 million a year on arresting, trying and incarcerating marijuana users in this state, we know marijuana has never been more available," Irwin said. "We know that law enforcement has not been successful at keeping marijuana out of the hands of anyone in the state."
Irwin has at least two Republican cosponsors for the bill; joining him at a press conference were Rep. Marcia Hovey-Wright (D-Muskegon), Rep. Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) and Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville).
"This is the right time to have this debate in Michigan," Rep. Shirkey said. "We're using a lot of money, energy and resources in Michigan and across the nation to accomplish something we've failed at.
By Steve Elliott
A new push in Congress to end the federal War On Marijuana is being led by some of the most conservative members of the Republican conference.
The "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act," introduced in the House last week, would protect anyone acting legally under state marijuana laws from federal prosecution under the Controlled Substances Act, reports Tim Dickinson at Rolling Stone. The legislation would cover both medical marijuana laws and overall legalization in states like Colorado and Washington, where voters last fall decided to make cannabis legal for adults 21 and older.
Poll data released last week from Pew Research found that 60 percent of Americans believe the federal government should allow states to decide for themselves when it comes to the marijuana laws. The same poll found that 57 percent of Republicans also favor the same approach, "which may explain why this bill is attracting arch-conservative backers in the House," according to Rolling Stone.
The three conservative GOP cosponsors of the "Respect State Marijuana Laws Act" are:
By Steve Elliott
Michigan's crackdown on medical marijuana dispensaries continues. An investigation following last month's raids on three West Michigan medical marijuana dispensaries led to additional charges on Wednesday.
Another arrest was made on Wednesday, and the Kent County prosecutor's office issued warrants for two more suspects, reports Aaron Aupperlee at
One person affiliated with Purple Med, a medical marijuana dispensary at 1365 Plainfield Ave. NE, was arrested on April 10, according to Let. Richard Nawrocki, head of the Grand Rapids Police Department's vice unit.
Two additional warrants were issued by the Kent County Prosecutor's Office for people affiliated with Grand Rapids dispensaries. One warrant was issued for a second person associated with Purple Med. Another was issued for a person associated with Natural Wellness Associates, 1240 N. Taylor Ave., according to Nawrocki.
The additional arrest and warrants came after David Overholt, owner of Mid-Michigan Compassion Club, turned himself in to police on April 5. Overholt, 55, is facing two counts of drug possession and "maintaining a drug house." (It seems particularly sad and ironic that a law originally passed to combat the crack cocaine scourge is now being used against facilities that provide medical help to seriously ill people.)
By Steve Elliott
A Michigan city's attempt to ban medical marijuana appears to be alive again after the state Supreme Court on Thursday agreed to hear the case.
The state Court of Appeals about seven months ago ruled that a new Wyoming, Mich., ordinance, which essentially bans medical marijuana, was not legal, reports John Tunison of Mlive.com. A three-judge appeals panel ruled unanimously that the Wyoming city ordinance conflicts with the states Medical Marihuana Act.
The court rejected Michigan's argument that state law contradicts the federal prohibition on marijuana, which the U.S. government considers a Schedule I controlled substance with no accepted medical uses.
Medical marijuana patient John Ter Beek, who is an attorney, started fighting the ban after the Wyoming City Council passed the ordinance back in November 2010. Council members who passed the ban said marijuana could be distributed safely by pharmacists (who, by federal law, aren't allowed to touch the stuff), but not by licensed marijuana caregivers.
Ter Beck sued, saying the ordinance went against the will of the state's voters, who by a 63 percent margin approved the law in 2008. Kent County Circuit Judge Dennis Leiber ruled in favor of the city, then the Court of Appeals reversed his ruling.
By Steve Elliott
Some of the first big changes to Michigan's 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana law take effect on Monday, including extending the one-year registry cards to two years and further defining the doctor-patient relationship necessary for authorization.
An overwhelming 63 percent of Michigan's voters approved the medical marijuana law, but lawmakers claimed it left too much open to interpretation and passed measures at the end of last session which were supposed to "clarify" the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
The doctor-patient relationship needed for an authorization before marijuana can be legally used was one of the biggest issues faced by the Legislature, reports Alanna Durkin at The Associated Press. Lawmakers were concerned that it was just too easy to get authorizized to use cannabis.
But starting Monday, April 1, doctors are required to complete face-to-face medical evaluations of patients, review relevant medical records, and assess their medical condition and history. Follow-up with patients to see whether marijuana is helping are also required.
The new rules will help doctors and patients by codifying what is expected throughout the medical marijuana authorization process, according to Michael Komorn, a Michigan attorney who specializes in medical marijuana law.
By Steve Elliott
One of nine defendants in a six-ton marijuana bust in Michigan was sentenced on Wednesday to 11 years and three months in federal prison.
Patrick O'Meara was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Paul Maloney in Kalamazoo, reports John Agar at Mlive.com.
O'Mera had pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver marijuana in the 12,000-pound marijuana bust from October 2011.
Earlier, Judge Maloney had sentenced Tony Frank Disla-Santiago to 11 years, three months. Angel Luis De Leon-De Jesus got six years, six months; Flavio Ramos got five years, three months; and Anthony Castro-Gonzales was sentenced to two years in federal prison.
The federal Drug Enforcement Administration had tracked the shipment, which they claimed had a street value of $12 million.
A DEA special agent in Indianapolis told authorities that a semi loaded with marijuana was headed to a specific location in the city of Wyoming, Michigan. Law enforcement were watching the warehouse as the cannabis was unloaded.
According to the federal indictment, the defendants conspired to possess and distribute 1,000 kilograms or more of marijuana from 2009 through October 21, 2011.
By Steve Elliott
If medical marijuana is a fringe issue, as some in Michigan claim, then "that's one large fringe," according to Michigan op-ed writer Brad Flory.
"It is fashionable to write off the medical-marijuana movement as a fringe group, a fact I discovered two weeks ago in feedback from upstanding citizens annoyed by my soft-on-weed views," Flory wrote on Mlive.com on Thursday.
"Softness on weed was not my intention," he wrote. "I didn't say anything good, bad or indifferent about marijuana or its medicinal value.
"What I said was this: Medical marijuana is only kinda-sorta legal four years after the voters of Michigan legalized it, which is not the way things should work in a healthy democracy," Flory wrote.
"The problem is, state government has created no legal method for selling medical marijuana to people who qualify for it," Flory wrote. "That is not my definition of legalizing something."
Medical marijuana was passed by an overwhelming 63 percent of Michigan's voters.
"For every 37 voters in Michigan who opposed legalization of medical marijuana, 63 supported it," Flory wrote. "It passed in all 83 counties, including ones always described as Republican, conservative and religious."
By Steve Elliott
The Michigan House of Representatives is considering a bill which would allow safe access for the state's medical marijuana patients through a system of dispensaries.
The Medical Marijuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act comes after a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that the transfer of medicinal cannabis between patients -- the kind that takes place in dispensaries -- is not covered or protected by the original Michigan Medical Marihuana Act approved by 63 percent of state voters in 2008.
Mike Callton (R-Nashville) said medical marijuana dispensaries are necessary for patients to have save access to the cannabis recommended by their doctors, reports Dan Lloyd of Heritage Media.
"Frankly, the recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling necessitated this legislation," Callton said. "Now there are only two limited ways someone can access medical marijuana: Grow their own, or contract with a caregiver.
"Therefore, we need to allow for provisioning centers or patients will continue to suffer," Rep. Callton said. "The more educated people become about this issue, the more they understand the pressing need before us."
By Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
They wore suits and ties and said they hope to raise $1,000 apiece from 1,000 people -- $1 million dollars -- while gathering 322,609 signatures by July 9 as the first step toward legalizing marijuana in Michigan.
At a news conference Friday at Roberts Riverwalk Hotel & Residence in Detroit, a dozen members of the Committee for a Safer Michigan announced the kickoff of their effort to put their legalization question on Michigan's November ballot.
"The time has come to end prohibition of cannabis in Michigan," said lawyer Tom Lavigne of Grosse Pointe Park, coauthor of the ballot language.
The group said it expects legalization to create jobs in a new industry, allow law enforcement to focus on violent crimes, develop a new source of tax revenue for the state and take the business aspects of marijuana away from organized crime. Committee members said polls show Americans increasingly favor easing laws against marijuana, although drug-abuse prevention groups steadfastly oppose it.
"We say no to legalizing marijuana," said Judy Rubin, executive director of the Tri-Community Coalition, a group that works to end youth substance abuse in Berkley, Huntington Woods and Oak Park.
"Do we really want more harmful substances for our youth? We're already doing a pretty poor job with alcohol," she said.
By Kim Kozlowski, The Detroit News
It may be a lot of smoke in the air, but an effort is in the works to try to make it legal for Michigan residents over age 21 to smoke marijuana.
A petition drive is expected to launch this week aimed at asking voters in November amend the state constitution and legalize marijuana.
If enough signatures are collected and the measure were to pass, Michigan would become one of the first states in the nation to abolish criminal penalties for anyone using, growing, selling and delivering what has been a federally controlled substance for decades.
The move also would put Michigan in the forefront of a national movement to end the prohibition on marijuana.
Legalizing marijuana is Michigan's next frontier, activists say, since the state's 2008 medical marijuana law is vague and has lead to chaos among patients and medical authorities and police and court officials in the implementation and enforcement of the law.
Proponents for a change contend that many judicial officials have used their authority to limit the law for those who need it. Meanwhile, they add, the state Legislature has not responded to the confusion.
"The medical law is not working," said Matthew Abel, an attorney who is coordinating the petition campaign. "Rather than try to rebuild that and have more of the same type of problems, we needed to go something broader than that.
By Ryan J. Stanton, Ann Arbor Political Reporter
A grass-roots group operating under the name Repeal Today For A Safer Michigan 2012 is hoping to put the question to voters in November 2012.
A draft version of the petition obtained by AnnArbor.com seeks to amend the Michigan Constitution to make pot legal for people 21 and older.
It reads as follows:
A Petition to amend the Michigan Constitution Article 1, to add:
Article 1 Section 28. Repeal of Marihuana Prohibition.
For persons at least 21 years of age who are not incarcerated, marihuana cultivation, possession, bodily internal possession, sale, acquisition, transfer, delivery, transportation, religious, medical or personal use, or possession or use of paraphernalia shall not be prohibited, abridged, or penalized in any manner; nor subject to civil forfeiture; provided that no person shall be allowed to operate a motor vehicle while impaired by any substance.
Kestenbaum said he hadn't thought much about whether such a proposal would pass, but he doesn't discount it considering the medical marijuana initiative won voter approval in 2008.
"I think this is going to be very interesting," he said. "I'm intrigued."
The Michigan Industrial Hemp Education and Marketing project, also known as MIHEMP is a Michigan nonprofit corporation working to expand Industrial Hemp as a natural resource for industrial and private enterprise in the State of Michigan.
The Michigan Industrial Hemp Education and Marketing Project (MIHEMP) has started a fund raising campaign in order to raise money to apply for a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to grow industrial hemp. The Michigan Industrial Hemp Education and Marketing Project (MIHEMP), led by Executive Director Everett Swift announced that they have started a fund raising campaign in order to raise money to apply for a permit from the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) to grow industrial hemp. "It will take a lot of money," says Swift, "the permit fee is $3,000 and we will need additional funds for the project." Swift goes on to say, "Any Michigan farmer wanting to grow this crop is burdened with a hefty fee and our goal is to help this needed industry to get underway."
By Roberto Ceniceros
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — The American Civil Liberties Union said it will appeal a ruling by a federal judge who found that Wal-Mart Stores Inc. does not have to accommodate employees who are legally registered to use medical marijuana.
The case involves Joseph Casias, a 2008 associate of the year at a Battle Creek, Mich., Wal-Mart store who was fired after he tested positive for marijuana use.
Mr. Casias was legally registered to use marijuana to treat pain associated with an inoperable brain tumor and cancer. But he did not ingest the drug at work, according to the ACLU.
In 2008, voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which the ACLU claims protects workers like Mr. Casias. But U.S. District Court Judge Robert J. Jonker said the law doesn't mandate that businesses accommodate employees.
The Feb. 11 ruling came after a recent finding by a Michigan magistrate who said neither an employer nor the employer's workers compensation insurer are required to pay for medical marijuana that is reasonably necessary to treat an injured worker.