BY JAY SMOKER
A new Michigan-based medical marijuana coalition –The National Patients Rights Association (NPRA) – has been formed by some of the nation’s leading medical marijuana advocates to protect patient rights. The group will encourage legislators, prosecutors, and local governments to fully honor the decision of voters that enacted laws to legalize medical marijuana in 16 states and the nation’s capital. Michigan, whose Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) passed by nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) in 2008, will be among the first states targeted through the NPRA’s efforts.
The NPRA is backed by patients, caregivers, businesses, and a range of other supporters. Collectively, the coalition will work to broaden awareness, reach legislators in a targeted manner, and help mobilize patients and caregivers who are affected by these laws. A key objective of the coalition is a push for definitive regulation in terms of standardization – ranging from safety and storage needs, document management requirements, privacy, and overall industry standards and procedures.
According to the NPRA, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette should not circumvent or undermine state laws for the sake of personal beliefs and should honor the will of Michigan voters by helping make implementation of the medicinal marijuana law clearer for all involved parties. The NPRA believes the Michigan attorney general is:
Consuming vital public resources by turning medical issues into criminal ones – all the way through our criminal justice system, from police officer to investigator to prosecutor’s offices to our court system
Politicizing what are societal discussions and decisions regarding how we conduct and administer health care in our society
Forcing ordinary citizens, many of whom suffer agonizing chronic or constant pain and other serious diseases and disabilities clearly defined by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, to turn to unsafe and unsavory sources for marijuana
Encouraging the current climate of enforcement in many individual jurisdictions, which has had a silencing or inhibiting impact on ethical Michigan medical practitioners (and their medical insurers)
Leading to patients being prescribed much more dangerous (in terms of addiction and side effects), more expensive and less effective therapeutic agents
Legitimate business activity
The NPRA points out that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act approved in 2008 by Michigan voters has helped to diversify the state’s economy and subsequently created a new class of entrepreneurs to serve it – many of these business owners understand that participating in the state economy means paying their fair share of taxes. The NPRA believes that Michigan should consider taxation similar to Colorado. In that state, medical marijuana dispensaries pay sales tax on all transactions, including other retail products they sell. The dispensaries also must apply for a license to operate and pay application fees. These fees fund Colorado’s medical marijuana enforcement division, which regulates the industry.
“The reality is that not all patients and their caregivers have the interest, resources or skills to carefully grow therapeutic-grade medical marijuana. These patients need safe access to medical marijuana that meets the therapeutic objectives of their licensed health care practitioners,” said Paul Tylenda, a Grosse Pointe attorney. “The Colorado model combines maximal benefit for patients, tax revenue generation and appropriate regulation of the program.”
Northern Lights Hydroponic & Garden Supply in Madison Heights, Mich., – offering a complete line of hydroponic, indoor and outdoor gardening supplies – is one example of a local business that has significantly grown its customer base as a direct result of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. Having served the area for more than 16 years as Jim’s Flowers, the company recently expanded its operations by taking over an 8,000-square-foot retail space that had been sitting vacant for more than four years.
“Medical marijuana has been beneficial to my horticulture business, because it has allowed me to add income year round,” said Joe Alfery, co-owner of Northern Lights. “I also take pride in the fact that since our business has expanded into a once-empty building, we have helped play a role in both the beautification of our community as well as become a larger tax contributor to our state.”
Background, news media coverage and links to other resources are available at the National Patients’ Rights Association website: www.nprausa.com. You can also call 1-855-444-6772 for information on how to contact your state representative or senator.
The National Patients Rights Association (NPRA)