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Many in Michigan thought they would never see the day, But, the day came
 Nov 4, 2008, when voters made smoking medical marijuana – — or in other
 common terms, "pot," "a joint," "a blunt," "hemp," "grass," "weed," 
"Mary Jane," or "reefer" — legal under some medical circumstances.


                      Return To OnlinePot’s Legal Section Main Page       


Another milestone for Michigan residents also was reached this week.  Registration now is under way to sign up for the marijuana registry identification card.

Those who qualify should have a card in hand about five days after being approved.

The November election was a stunner for many, not just nationally, but locally, too.

The secure passage of Proposal 1, the legislative initiative to permit the use and cultivation of marijuana for specified medical conditions, will open new doors for some patients with chronic illnesses.

Michigan voters approved the long-debated issue by more than 60 percent.

Those with illnesses such as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, cancer, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis C, among others, qualify for the "Medical Marihuana Program."

Patients diagnosed with one of those qualifying illnesses can obtain the registry identification card from the Michigan Department of Community Health.

The Bureau of Health Professions within the MDCH will run the program.

According to James McCurtis, a spokesman for MDCH, those who want a registry identification card will have to apply online at www.michigan.gov/mmp.

McCurtis said recently that the department has no idea how many applications to expect.

Contrary to popular belief, physicians will not prescribe marijuana, they simply verify that a patient has one of the qualifying debilitating conditions.

The new law actually went into effect Dec.  4.

With registration just beginning, the proposal still is creating a flurry of mixed reactions from residents on both sides of the issue.

There are those who are disappointed and concerned that the proposal is going to create an unmanageable problem for law enforcement and allow those who are ill to ease their pain with an unhealthy and unlicensed substance.

On the other hand, others who supported the legalization and campaigned vigorously for the day they could legally smoke the herb and find some relief from pain celebrated the triumphant win.

Then, there are recreational users who couldn’t care less about the results of the election because they are going to smoke marijuana whether they can do it legally or not.

As final preparations are put in place for the program, many are waiting to see which side of the argument actually comes to fruition.

The Rev.  Steven Thompson, executive director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, Michigan chapter, is, by his own admission, an unlikely supporter of the measure.

An ordained minister, the 61-year-old said he has smoked the herb for the past 42 years.  He couldn’t be happier to see Michigan’s laws change on the issue.

"It bothers me that it was ever classified as a drug," Thompson said.  "It’s a seed-bearing herb plant, so we don’t recognize it as a drug."

Thompson, like many others who supported the proposal, often refers to marijuana as "cannabis".  He said that is its "legal and proper name."

Thompson said he started smoking marijuana when he was a teenager simply because he "liked to get high" and even said he probably smoked it more than he should have.

Nevertheless, he defends everyone’s right to use the substance.  Now Thompson has arthritis and back pain, but believes his overall health is better because of the natural herbs he uses, including marijuana.

The latest rules pertaining to the legal use of marijuana are posted on the Department of Health’s Web site.

Thomson said that NORML vigorously fought for the passage of the proposal and clarified the image of those who support the proposal.

"We’re not a bunch of Cheech and Chongs," Thompson said.  "We are all good citizens from all walks of life."

Thompson, who said he became a Christian in 1974, said his commitment to his faith and his cause have created great conflict for many around him.

He said one minister even told him he was "on the way to hell" because of his push for the proposal.

Still, Thompson believes the plant belongs to God, not man, and he is without question but that he is doing what God wants him to be doing.

For as much as Thompson supported the proposal, David Seaman opposed it.  He is executive vice president of the Michigan Health and Hospital Association, which represents all hospitals in the state.

Seaman said three major concerns remain troublesome with the passing of Proposal 1.

First and foremost, Seaman said the use of smoke as a distribution method within the body is unhealthy and goes against all medical health principles

He said there is enough evidence linking the ingestion of smoke as a contributing factor to illnesses such as emphysema, lung cancer and early death to rule out any form of smoking as an option for pain relief.

The second health concern draws questions as to the quality and ethics of medicine.  Seaman said there is no way to monitor the dosage, purity or quality of marijuana used from one person to the other.

"Is it laced with a pesticide or other narcotics?" Seaman said.  "Are you being treated with medicine or a street drug?"

He said the active ingredient in marijuana that has a medicinal value for pain reduction also is available in prescription pill form or in an inhaler.

That being the case, Seaman said, it is unnecessary to use smoke as a distribution source in the body.

"Smoking is bad for you, period," he said.  "It doesn’t matter what you are smoking, whether it is marijuana or cigarettes."

Finally, Seaman questions whether the passage of the law is going to promote criminal activity.  He wonders if using the word "medical" marijuana on the ballot was nothing more than a smoke screen to get the proposal passed.

Nevertheless, he said the fear of increased criminal activity is not his area of expertise, but it remains a concern to him.

Brownstown Township’s police chief, Dennis Richardson, is an expert in law enforcement and, according to him, those concerns are valid.

"My biggest issue is that if this is truly ‘medical’ marijuana, then it should be given out like other prescription drugs," Richardson said.  "What we are allowing people to do is grow their own marijuana.  It should be controlled like other drugs that are prescribed and distributed.  It will virtually be impossible to police."

Richardson said the entire passage of the proposal leaves some important unanswered questions dangling in the air.  He questions the concept of people trading and sharing marijuana plants.

Richardson said some people may be better growers than others, so he questions the ethics of people growing marijuana for other people.

He believes not being able to determine what actually is in the marijuana is a problem because he knows no two people will grow it, roll it and use it the same way.

Richardson also is quite concerned that people will attempt to function "normally" in public when they are under the influence.

He said someone who smokes marijuana and gets behind the wheel of a car and drives will be subject to charges of driving under the influence of drugs.

Nevertheless, he fears there are many who will have a sense of security that unlawfully smoking marijuana just became a whole lot easier.

Under the new law, individuals who once could have been considered "drug dealers" are now being protected as "caregivers."

The new law allows patients to designate a primary caregiver, who must be at least 21 and never have been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs.  Caregivers will be allowed to grow 12 marijuana plants in an enclosed, locked facility.

A patient can have possession of up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana

The MDCH, however, will not offer advice to patients or caregivers on how to obtain or grow marijuana.  Among those who celebrated the passage of Proposal 1 is Tony, a Taylor resident whose last name was withheld to protect his identity.

Tony said he smokes marijuana recreationally and on a daily basis.  He equates it to someone coming home and having a beer.

Tony is in his mid-40s and views Proposal 1 as a "moral victory."

"At least it is being recognized for its good qualities," he said.

He said he knows some people can’t smoke marijuana and function normally, but he said he can.

Tony voted in support of the proposal, saying it is a one-of-a-kind "God-given" plant and all humans have to do is harvest it.

"I have a friend who is diabetic and he uses marijuana," Tony said.  "It helps him.  I see the benefits.  Why can’t people have this when we have cigarettes and alcohol?"

It is Tony’s argument, and that of many others who support his views, that alcohol causes far more car accidents and is at the root of more assault cases than marijuana.

It annoys Tony that there are people in jail "wasting space and time" because of charges involving marijuana possession.

At one point in his life, Tony came close to being one of those people.

Some time ago, he said he was pulled over by a police officer for a vehicle violation.

After getting a whiff of the strong aroma coming from Tony’s car when he rolled down the window, the officer suddenly became more interested in Tony and his habit than the vehicle violation.

The officer did not find marijuana on Tony, but Tony said he was livid over being questioned extensively about his personal life and habits.

He said the officer lectured him on the dangers of smoking marijuana and criticized his parenting decisions.

Tony said he is a good parent and resents the implication that he might not be because he uses marijuana.

While there are those who fear that once the registry cards are in hand things will get out of hand with marijuana use, others believe that train of thought is nothing more than hysteria.

Tony said he is not going to try to take advantage of the new program and doesn’t believe most marijuana users will either.

He said most recreational users can get marijuana easily enough and will continue to smoke it when they please.

Michigan now joins 12 other states that have approved similar proposals.