Link to Original Article Advocates have formed a new Michigan-based medical marijuana coalition, the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA). The group said it will encourage legislators, prosecutors, and local governments to fully honor the decision of citizens who voted to legalize medical marijuana in 16 states and the District of Columbia. Michigan, whose Medical Marihuana Act was approved by nearly two-thirds of voters (63 percent) in 2008, will be among the first states targeted by the NPRA.
The new group said it is "backed by patients, caregivers, businesses, and a range of other supporters." The coalition said it "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 NPRA, according to a Monday press release, is to push for definitive regulation in terms of standardization, ranging from safety and storage needs, document management requirements, privacy, and overall industry standards and procedures. Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette should not circumvent or undermine state laws for the sake of personal beliefs, according to the NPRA, "and should honor the will of Michigan voters by helping make implementation of the medicinal marijuana law clearer for all involved parties.
The NPRA said it 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 Marihuana Act, to turn to unsafe and unsavory sources for cannabis
- 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.
Legimate Business Activity
The NPRA pointed out that the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) 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, according to the NPRA, understand that participating in the state economy means paying their fair share of taxes. The NPRA said it 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 must also 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," said Paul Tylender, an attorney from Grosse Pointe, Michigan.
"These patients need safe access to medical marijuana that meets the therapeutic objectives of their licensed health care practitioners. The Colorado model combines maximal benefit for patients, tax revenue generation andy appropriate regulation of the program."
Northern Lights Hydroponic & Garden Supply in Madison Heights, Michigan, which sells 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 MMMA, according to the NPRA. 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 the both the beautification of our community as well as become a larger tax contributor to our state."
For more information about the National Patient Rights Association (NPRA), visit their website at www.nprausa.com.
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By JEFF BARNARD Associated Press
ROGUE RIVER, Ore. (AP) -- When police knocked on Josh Brewer's door to check for marijuana, even one of the nation's most liberal medical marijuana laws was put to the test.
Officers were fine with the two pounds 10 ounces he and a cousin had grown, harvested, and processed. That was under the pound and a half each allowed by law. And they didn't care about the 12 plants - six each - growing in the backyard. Also legal. But after they discovered the additional two pounds 11 ounces drying on coat hangers suspended from the ceiling in the living room, officers arrested Brewer, sparking a legal battle over what was enough - in the maximum sense - for medical use, and what crossed the line into the potential for illegal sales. After all, even 1.5 pounds by one measure would equal 1,200 joints.
A motion to dismiss the case because the drying marijuana was not "usable" under Oregon law was turned down by a judge. Brewer served 60 days in jail and received three years of probation, putting him back on conventional pain pills for a wrist he said he injured in a construction accident. But Brewer, 24, beat the rap and has already started a new pot garden after the state attorney general's office conceded last week that, based on a 2007 Oregon Court of Appeals ruling, the marijuana still drying on coat hangers did not qualify as ready for use.
"Without the hanging marijuana, there is no evidence that defendant possessed more than the lawful amount of `useable marijuana,'" said the state brief on Brewer's appeal.
Oregon law defines usable marijuana as the dried leaves and flowers in form appropriate for medical use. The law does not define how dry that is, but it is generally understood to mean dry enough to smoke. The case illustrates that 16 years after California became the first state in the nation to make medical marijuana legal, the legal questions over what is legal and who goes to jail and who doesn't are far from clear. The 15 states that allow marijuana use for medical reasons each have their own widely-varying approaches.
Southwestern Oregon lies at the northern tip of what is known as the Emerald Triangle, for its prime marijuana-growing climate. The region also has the highest per capita concentrations of medical marijuana growers in the state. With so much pot allowed under Oregon law, law enforcement says it's difficult to make sure that none is sold illegally.
"It's turned into a Cheech and Chong movie. `Up In Smoke,' man," said Medford police Chief Tim George, whose officers arrested Brewer in 2009. "We are swimming in weed."
Oregon and Washington both allow users to possess 24 usable ounces, by far and away the most. California allows eight ounces, but unlike most states, only counts the buds, the most potent part of the plant. Most other states allow 2-3 ounces. Colorado allows 2 ounces, Maine 2.5 ounces, and Hawaii 3 ounces. George said the way the law stands, medical marijuana growers can be growing - year-round indoors - disposing of, and replenishing their stock from their plants and a stockpile of drying branches.
"How dry is dry in order to make it count?" he said. "Right now you can have 1.5 pounds per day every day of the month. That is crazy."
Research done for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency found that marijuana plants can yield 1 to 5 pounds dry weight, with the prized buds making up 18 percent and leaves 16 percent. Using those figures, the six plants per patient allowed in Oregon could amount to 2-10 pounds of buds and leaves, far more than the 1.5 pounds allowed. Marijuana clinic owner Paul Stanford said 1.5 pounds for the entire year would be enough for most people who smoke their medicine, but not for people who use it to bake cookies and the like.
Whatever the legal amount, vulnerability to arrest remains. "As long as the police don't come into their homes, they don't have a problem," Stanford said. "If they have to interact with police for any reason, it can be a very big problem."
Brewer said he had a job building outdoor kitchens in 2006 when he cut a nerve in his wrist with a razor blade. He got a medical marijuana card for pain the next year, and started growing his own medicinal pot, using a popular handbook. In 2009, he and a cousin rented a house in Medford so their marijuana was not around Brewer's wife and three young children. They built a 14-foot fence around the backyard and planted 12 plants - six each. Brewer said he learned to cut off branches and hang them on coat hangers on hooks in the ceiling to dry in order to stay compliant with the law.
"Say you go out and cut all six plants down and bring them in to hang," he said. "When all that's dry you're going to be over your limit. It's setting you up for an opportunity to get busted. But if you go out and are taking a branch here, a branch there, you get little bits at a time `til you have what you need. The excess medicine you've got you can donate to a clinic. You can burn it. There are multiple ways you can dispose of it."
Brewer said police from a regional drug task force knocked on the door one day and asked to look at his operation. He let them in, and they said he was within the law. But two days later at 1:30 a.m. he heard his dogs barking and got out of bed to find Medford police at the door. They seized the processed and drying marijuana, leaving the plants in the yard. With reversal of the conviction, Brewer said he plans to sue Medford police and the city for $15 million.
"I hope these cops realize after this they can come and try and get me as much as they want, but the more they come, the more I'm going to fight," he said.
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