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Friday, March 20, 2009

Medical Marijuana Comes to the Midwest

Posted By on Fri, Mar 20, 2009 at 2:44 PM

Starting next month, residents of Michigan will be able to petition their doctor for a pot prescription of up to twelve plants. Michigan is the first non-coastal state east of the Rocky Mountains to enact such a law.

Technically the policy went into effect last December after Michigan voters approved a ballot measure with 63 percent majority in the November election (it collected 250,000 more votes than Barack Obama, who won the state easily) but next month marks the first time patients can actually legally obtain their herbal remedy.

According to the Chicago Tribune, parts of the new law are already (ahem) coming under fire: 

Once they receive cards authorizing marijuana use, patients can grow their own--up to 12 plants--or designate a "caregiver" who will grow marijuana for them. Unlike California, there will be no public dispensaries that sell marijuana.

But there are legal holes and inconsistencies in the law that, in many ways, will likely preserve the underground nature of marijuana use. Patients can legally buy marijuana on the street, but sellers can be prosecuted. Although patients can grow their own plants, they cannot legally obtain the seeds to grow them. Medical doctors are not required to participate. And, despite the imprimatur of legality from the state of Michigan, there is nothing in the law to protect medical marijuana patients from being dismissed by their employer for using marijuana.

One thing the newly minted medical marijuana users won't have to worry about, however, is the DEA kicking down their doors. Earlier this week Obama's Attorney General Eric Holder ended months of speculation and announced that federal agencies will not arrest or prosecute medical marijuana users that abide by state laws.

That bodes well for activists in states like Missouri, where opponents of medical marijuana have often claimed they can't support a state law that's in violation of federal statutes.

Missouri's most recent proposed prescription pot law, HB 277, is still stalled in the House of Representatives, waiting to be assigned to a committee by Speaker of the House Ron Richard

It's unlikely that Richard will act on the legislation, especially given his spokeswoman's response last month when asked by the RFT about the law in relation to the pot-legalizing city of Cliff Village, which is near Richard's hometown of Joplin. Here's what Richard's spokeswoman had to say then:
"We don't have any plans to assign the bill to a committee," says Kristen Blanchard. "The Speaker and the caucus have priorities that have to do with our family-recovery plan and helping Missouri families who are out of jobs and that sort of thing."
So basically if you think Missouri is going to have a medical marijuana law anytime in the near future, you must be smoking something.

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