LANSING- In an unannounced policy change, the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department has made it more difficult for the disabled to enroll in the state Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) by removing a discounted registration rate that had existed for five years.
The change was not announced via press release or through letters sent to discount recipients. Patients and caregivers reported seeing a new chart on LARA's website to operators of certification centers and other related businesses. The chart is called "Supporting documentation for reduced fee eligibility" and indicates that it was revised on 6/2013. Disability is now listed as 'not eligible' for a discounted rate; the registration fee is normally $100 and the discounted rate is $25.
View the new chart HERE.
"It seems really unfair to do that without a public hearing," said Matthew Abel, an attorney with the firm of Cannabis Counsel and the current Executive Director of Michigan NORML.
This is the second time LARA has changed longstanding policy under new head Steve Arwood, appointed by Governor Snyder earlier this year. Soon after his appointment Arwood bounced MMP head Celeste Clarkston and disbanded the New Conditions Panel of mostly physicians that endorsed adding Parkinson's Disease and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder to the list of conditions qualifying a person to receive a recommendation to use medicinal marijuana. He then discarded their recommendations and has announced he will compose his own advisory board of physicians.
The panel was assembled with much fanfare in 2012, after a four year delay, had met several times and proposed to consider two new conditions to the list, asthma and autism. Clarkston reported in media during 2012 about the careful and precise composition of the Panel during its formation; Arwood's reason for dismissing the Panel is that the membership was not appropriate. Also gone is longtime member of the MMP staff Rae Ramsdell, leaving the MMP leaderless and being steered by Arwood.
Read the MMP's Administrative Rules HERE.
Arwood is systematically applying a new, more restrictive reading to existing administrative rules. "What LARA is doing right now is changing the rules without any oversight," said Abel. The disability discount has been in place since the very first applicants dropped off their paperwork to the Department of Community Health in April of 2009. A patient could have filed their original application and four renewal applications- all of which were approved- only to now be told that it was all a mistake.
"What bothers people the most is they are changing the rules without any input or discretion," said Bob Redden, whose criminal case stretched out over more than 1,500 days in the Oakland County court system and is now a frequent observer at many marijuana trials and hearings. Redden is a veteran who walks with a cane. "Look what they did to the New Conditions Panel. They decided to change the rules midstream," he adds.
"Who are they taking their orders from?"
When queried about the changes, a telephone operator at LARA stated management told them the discount was not allowed under current Administrative Rules and that her supervisor Mrs. Williams was handling complaints about the change. She also said the Rules were going to undergo a complete overhaul in the near future. The change also affects those collecting Medicare and Medicaid- now only those receiving FULL Medicaid (not Medicare) will be able to claim the discount.
Redden sums up the frustration of an entire community when he says, "Does the will of the people mean anything at all?"
LARA's representative stated the new rule went into effect for all applications received after May 29, 2013.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles