Feds want Michigan records in medical-marijuana probe, challenging federal versus state laws
Federal agents want Michigan to turn over medical marijuana records as part of an investigation in the Lansing area, a sign that voter approval won't stop federal authorities from enforcing their drug laws.
Michigan voters agreed in 2008 to legalize the use of marijuana in treating some health problems.
But "the cultivation, possession and distribution of marijuana remains illegal under federal law," Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bruha said in a court filing last week.
The U.S. attorney's office has asked a judge to order the Department of Community Health to comply with a subpoena for records of seven people with medical marijuana or marijuana caregiver cards. The state has been resisting turning over the information because of a privacy provision in Michigan law, Bruha said. No names or identifying information about the seven are included in court documents, nor are details about the Drug Enforcement Administration's investigation.
DEA spokesman Rich Isaacson in Detroit wouldn't comment about the case Monday but said agents generally are "not targeting people that are unambiguously following the state medical marijuana law."
"The DEA targets large scale drug trafficking organizations and does not expend its resources on individuals possessing 'user amount' quantities of illegal drugs," he said.
The federal government apparently hasn't been in a rush to get the information: The subpoena was given to the Department of Community Health in June.
More than 45,000 people in Michigan are registered to use marijuana to ease the symptoms of cancer and other health problems. They can have up to 2 1/2 ounces of ready-to-use pot and up to 12 plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility. They could also choose to have a registered caregiver grow the drug for them.
Law enforcement officials have panned the law as poorly written, and an appeals court judge has called it a "maze." The American Civil Liberties Union is suing cities over anti-marijuana policies.
Many Marijuana Dispensaries Reopen
Months after Los Angeles ran a majority of medical marijuana dispensaries out of town by passing strict regulations, the shops are cropping up again. A judge this month scratched key portions of the ordinance that city officials spent years putting together and noted that a large number of collectives could reopen.
David Welch, the lawyer who represents some of the shuttered clinics that sued the city, says nearly 60 have decided to open in recent months. About 180 collectives applied to remain open after hundreds were forced to close, but only about 40 met all the ordinance’s criteria. Which include being at least 1,000 feet from schools, parks and other gathering sites.
Woman fired over medical marijuana to get day in high court
Should an employee's use of medical marijuana - at home, with no side effects on the job - be exempt from workplace drug-use policies?
That's one of the questions judges and lawmakers will be wrestling with next month, when the state Supreme Court hears a case of a woman fired for using the drug, and the Legislature takes up a bill expanding protections in the state's medical marijuana law.
The case before the court involves a woman suing her former employer, after she failed a drug test and was fired from a customer-service job in Bremerton. The woman, using "Jane Roe" as a pseudonym in court records, was using marijuana prescribed by her doctor for debilitating migraines.
The woman is using the alias because medical marijuana use remains illegal under federal law.
The Court of Appeals ruled against the woman last year, saying the state's medical marijuana law protects patients only from criminal prosecutions, not in employment disputes.
But in petitioning the high court for review, the woman's attorney argued that the law -- passed by voters in 1998 as Initiative 682 -- allowed for broader protections. Michael Subit wrote that voters and lawmakers who enacted the Medical Use of Marijuana Act would be "flabbergasted if qualified patients could lose their jobs simply for using medical marijuana at home in accordance with the Act."
Subit's client had been hired in 2006 by Colorardo-based TeleTech Customer Care Management to do customer service via phone and emails at a Bremerton office. The company had a drug-test policy; the woman said she would fail it and offered to provide medical documentation for her marijuana use.
She took the test, started work, and was fired about a week later, because she tested positive for cannabis.
"She used marijuana in such small doses that it had no side effects," Subit wrote. "It did not negatively affect her ability to work or take care of her children." He said the woman never used it on the job, or in front of her kids, and was not impaired at work.
Subit also wrote that the woman had suffered from chronic pain, nausea, blurred vision and light sensitivity for years, and it wasn't until her doctor prescribed marijuana that her symptoms subsided.
What did voters want with medical marijuana law?
The issue hinges on the intent of the law, which says "humanitarian compassion" makes allowing medical marijuana necessary, and that patients with terminal or debilitating illnesses "shall not be penalized in any manner, or denied any right or privilege."
The Court of Appeals said the "average informed voter" would understand that the law addresses only one subject - that of criminal prosecutions. Subit said most people would think employment is considered a privilege.
He also said the law balances the rights of patients with interests of the workplace, by not requiring employers to allow on-site marijuana use.
On Monday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington filed a brief (PDF) in support of the woman, saying she should be treated the same way as any other worker who takes prescribed medication for a debilitating condition.
"Patients suffering from terminal and debilitating medical conditions shouldn't be forced to choose between a job and a therapy that helps them," said Alison Holcomb, ACLU's drug policy director.
The court is expected to hear oral arguments on Jan. 18.
Next month, Sen. Jeanne Kohl-Welles is expected to introduce a bill (PDF)clarifying the state's medical marijuana law. The bill seeks to ban an employer from firing - or refusing to hire - a marijuana patient, solely because of off-site use of the drug. Exceptions would include if the workplace involves physically hazardous or public safety duties.
The bill would also provide protections in housing and parenting plans. It would prohibit medical marijuana use from being a factor in refusing housing or restricting parental rights.
Colo. Doctor in Hot Water After Prescribing Medical Marijuana to Pregnant Woman
A doctor in Denver, Colo. is in danger of losing his license after recommending medical this past January to a woman who was seven months pregnant.
Dr. Manuel De Jesus Aquino recommended the marijuana following a brief three-minute exam without appropriate review of the patient's medicalhistory or request for a follow-up appointment, according to a recent report in The Denver Post. When the 20-year-old mother gave birth in April, her infant tested positive for marijuana and reportedly suffered feeding difficulties.
The Colorado state attorney general's office filed a complaint last week on behalf of the Colorado Medical Board against Aquino, whose license is currently suspended pending the outcome of proceedings against him.
Dr. Lester Grinspoon, professor emeritus of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and a long-time proponent of the medical use of marijuana, told AOL Health Thursday morning that marijuana is actually safer than a lot of medications that are available over the counter, incuding anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin, which cause thousands of deaths per year. "There has never been a death directly attributed to marijuana," Grinspoon says.
While he doesn't advocate the use of marijuana among pregnant women, he does not believe it's harmful to the mother or the fetus. He points out that in cases of pathological nausea in pregnant women, marijuana can actually be helpful by curing the nausea that prevents mothers-to-be from eating and digesting food. "You shouldn't use any kind of medicine when you're pregnant if you can avoid it," Grinspoon adds, "but there are some times when you don't have a choice."
Some in the medical community believe marijuana can be used to treat a variety of conditions and symptoms, including nausea,headaches, neuropathic pain, Chrohn's disease, multiple sclerosis and glaucoma. "It's a remarkably untoxic substance," says Grinspoon, whose own son took advantage of medical marijuana to fight the nausea and vomiting he experienced while undergoing chemotheraphy for the treatment of leukemia.
Grinspoon believes it should have the same standing as over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen.
As for the doctor in Colorado, he may still be in tough straits regardless of whether or not marijuana is dangerous to pregnant women because Colorado law requires that physicians have bona fide relationshipswith patients before prescribing the drug for medical use.
California's 420 College is Planning to Help & Train Arizona's Future Medical Marijuana Professionals
The long fight for marijuana rights saw another victory via this past November's mid-term ballot, as Arizona voters pulled together in support of Proposition 203. This new piece of legislation expands the legality of marijuana in the state, and opens up opportunities for the nation's rapidly expanding Medical Marijuana industry.
As Arizonan's usher in Prop 203, which will make available 124 dispensary licenses for the state, 420 College will be on the scene to help blaze this new trail with it's brand of knowledge and professional expertise.
420 College is a California based Medical Marijuana Training Institute, which focuses on marijuana law, medical marijuana business, and provides an extensive discourse in general cannabis education.
With such a limited number of licenses up for grabs, time is of the essence. As a result, 420 College will be taking their show on the road to Arizona to help interested entrepreneurs get a head start on the application process, and a handle on the in and outs of this sometimes complex industry.
420 College's track record of student success in California has been ahead of the curve, and many attendees have gone to start their own marijuana dispensaries and other related businesses. With these recent developments, the school now looks to do the same for those in Arizona.
From day one, the school has not only been educating interested individuals, it has also been providing assistance to it's students through the many steps required to start up a medical marijuana business. 420 College's staff includes experienced lawyers, doctors, and other marijuana professionals, which walk students through the various paperwork and permits, and provide assurance that their ventures adhere to local law.
In anticipation of the passing of Prop 203, these experts have teamed up with Arizona professionals to develop a comprehensive program for the newly legal state. 420 College will start things off with a seminar series in Tempe, Arizona on the 5th and 6th of February 2011.
Along with this type of thorough entrepreneurial and legal instruction, these seminars will also feature a discussion on the disparages between California and Arizona marijuana laws and a special cultivation workshop.
420 College's overall objective has always been to extend education and community to those individuals interested in becoming a part of one of the nation's fastest growing industries. As the cannabis movement spreads across the country, 420 College is making strides to stay in step and bring its expertise to wherever it's needed.
State OKs higher plant limits, stiffer producer fees for medical marijuana
The state Department of Health announced several changes to its medical cannabis regulations Friday, one of which will create a permanent revenue stream to allow the program to pay for itself.
Another change adds to the supply of legally grown marijuana by increasing the number of plants licensed producers can grow from 95 to 150.
The regulations take effect Dec. 30.
Under the new fees, producers who have been licensed for less than a year will pay $5,000 annually; those in business for more than a year will pay $10,000; and producers in business for three years or longer will be charged an annual fee of $20,000.
The application fee for nonprofits seeking a license to legally produce the plant for medical purposes will also increase from $100 to $1,000.
Deborah Busemeyer, health department spokeswoman, said the fees are based on what the program requires to become self-sufficient — about $700,000 per year — and also on estimates from producers that by the third year in business, a nonprofit should be grossing about $400,000 a year.
"We think it's a minimal cost to producers," Busemeyer said, adding that the $400,000 estimate was based on producers who were only able to grow 95 plants per year.
The department will also increase the number of licensed producers to 25.
Other changes to the regulations will allow nonprofit producers to get plants, seeds and useable cannabis from other producers — making it easier for them to start, and stay, in business.
Busemeyer said some of the new regulations are responses to feedback the department received during two public hearings.
She added that another new rule will allow the department to collect and test samples of cannabis.
Busemeyer said there are about 3,000 patients enrolled in the medical marijuana program, and that number continues to increase. About 1,400 of those people are licensed to grow their own medicine; still, Busemeyer and Health Secretary Alfredo Vigil both said the state continues to hear reports from patients and providers that production is not meeting demand.
Vigil said Friday he feels the new rules were needed to ensure a more comfortable balance between supply and demand.
After the new rules are implemented, Vigil said he expects to see the growth of the program stabilize.
"Under the current legislation, I think we've accomplished what we set out to accomplish," Vigil said.
"But," he added, "the public can expect policy surrounding the use of marijuana to continue to evolve."
As state programs continue to grow, the federal government's policy that prohibits medical marijuana should be evaluated, he added.
"Given the number of states who now have programs, you would think that the federal policymakers will have to make adjustments. There are also issues around research. We badly need scientific research to understand what it is good for and what it is not. So, there is a lot of evolution going to be happening and that's what people should expect," Vigil said
To qualify for New Mexico's medical marijuana program, patients must have a physician certify that they have one of 16 qualifying conditions. Vigil rejected a proposal to list depression as a condition, going against an advisory board's recommendation.
Incoming governor Susana Martinez has said she'll seek to repeal the medical marijuana law
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