By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
About 1,500 supporters filled the Capitol lawn Wednesday afternoon at the state capitol in Lansing, carrying signs reading "Patients Are Not Criminals" and "Weed Deserve Better" in what is being called the largest pro-medical marijuana rally in Michigan.
What Marisa Schultz of The Detroit News called a "spirited gathering" came after an Appeals Court ruling last month that resulted in the closing of many of the state's estimated 400 to 500 medical marijuana dispensaries.
The ruling banned patient-to-patient marijuana sales for the nearly 100,000 carriers of Michigan medical marijuana cards, effectively limiting the ways in which patients can get medical marijuana and leaving them with few safe options to get their doctor-recommended cannabis, according to supporters.
"This is about our rights," said patient Robert Redden of Ferndale.
Much of the anger was focused on notoriously anti-medical marijuana Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who has praised the appeals court ruling. One of the loudest cheers of the afternoon came when a plane flew over the rally carrying a banner reading "Schuette: Keep Patients Off the Streets!"
Holding a sign that read "Ignorance of the Law Is No Excuse," patient Steve Sharpe of Jackson County was among many medical marijuana patients on Wednesday who faulted the attorney general for backing a series of proposed laws that patients and providers say will weaken their ability to safely obtain cannabis, reports Scott Davis at Lansing State Journal.
"He's trying to judge from his office," said Sharpe, 52. "If he was upholding the law, we wouldn't be out here today."
"If you're going to regulate it, regulate it," said caregiver Mike Rodriguez, 36, of Kalamazoo, who grows marijuana in his home for three patients. "Don't throw patients in jail for buying marijuana."
Patients at the rally told stories of their dispensaries being raided and shut down. Others praised the positive effects medical marijuana has had on their health. They protested the government's role in attacking medical marijuana patients and providers, despite the fact that an overwhelming 63 percent of Michigan voters approved medicinal cannabis in 2008.
Susan Sunshine, 69, of Oak Park, traveled with bus loads of others to Lansing on Wednesday afternoon to tell lawmakers to leave her medicine cabinet alone, reports Catherine Kavanaugh at the Oakland County Daily Tribune.
Sunshine said the police raids on dispensaries make it harder to get medical marijuana and pending bills in the Legislature seem aimed at "re-criminalizing" cannabis.
"They are treating people very shabbily saying they can't have their medicine and raiding places," Sunshine said before boarding one of three buses leaving Big Daddy's Hydro, which until last week had shared a building with a dispensary. The dispensary was raided last week and four employees were charged with marijuana possession and conspiracy.
Big Daddy's spokesman Rick Thompson said about 30 bills are pending or about to be introduced to change the medical marijuana law passed by the state's voters.
Thompson said the message to lawmakers in Lansing is: Honor the act as it is written.
"There hasn't been any hearing to increase the number of ailments allowed," Thompson said. "There has been no action to improve issuance of cards. It takes four or five months to get a card issued at this time, and seven days for a driver's license to be issued. We're calling attention to the fact the Legislature shouldn't change the law; they should honor the law."
Kathleen Gray of the Detroit Free Press reports that half a dozen legislators said last month they plan to introduce bills that would:
- Prohibit felons from becoming caregivers
- Clarify what is a "debilitating condition"
- Prohibit dispensaries with 500 feet of churches, schools or daycare centers
- Require a full physician work-up, including medical histories, before a doctor can authorize someone as a medical marijuana patient
"If we can get enough letters sent, maybe we can stop some of those bills," said Corey Thomason, 62, of Three Rivers. Thomason is an authorized medical marijuana patient with hepatitis C and is a caregiver for one other patient.
"The ballot issue was meant to show the feelings of the people," said Chris Chiles, a member of the board of directors at Students for Sensible Drug Policy (SSDP). "We don't need games or silly bureaucracy."
Attorney General Schuette claims that marijuana is authorized only in "very limited" circumstances and that medical use doesn't include cannabis sales. He has called the appeals court ruling a "huge victory for public safety and Michigan communities struggling with an invasion of pot shops near their schools, homes and churches."
"For this law, every effort by the Legislature and by Schuette has been to restrict it," said Chuck Ream, president of the dispensary A2 Compassionate Health Care in Ann Arbor, which was raided and shut down last month. "It's transparently anti-democratic to fight this law."
Under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, patients with state-issued medical marijuana cards may have 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis and up to 12 plants. Registered caregivers can grow marijuana for up to five patients.
Many activists are asking patients and supporters to call Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette at (517) 373-1110 and Michigan State Representative John Walsh at (517) 373-3920 and ask them to stop their war on sick people. Tell them it's time to stop going after medical marijuana patients and caregivers!
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.