March 26 2009 12:00 AM

Ignoring the stakeholders?


Marijuana Journal is a weekly column tracking the implementation of the
state medical marijuana law. Greg Francisco is the executive director
of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association. This column appears
online every Monday and every Wednesday in print.

More than three months after the state medical marijuana law went into effect, it seems the state is failing in its duty to make clear to stakeholders how our medical marijuana system works.

Some county health departments have been left in the dark about the Registry application process. Patients are calling and asking how to apply. Health departments aren’t real sure. Most are still unaware that they’ll have no role to play at all; registry applications go directly to the state Bureau of Heath Professions.

Pharmacists are trying to figure out how they will dispense medical marijuana. We’ve had contacts from pharmacists asking about various business models they’re contemplating. But the state hasn’t sent them any guidelines. Is it true they have to store the marijuana in a locked, enclosed safe? Actually, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act does not make provision for the dispensing of marijuana and it limits caregivers to a maximum of five patients.

Judges and prosecutors seem to be having a hard time understanding the new law. We’ve been putting in a lot of time trying to bring them up to speed. Some law enforcement officials are in the dark, unsure of the effective date of the law, how to handle charges filed previous to the effective date and how much latitude they have to challenge a valid doctor recommendation. The protections of the law became effective on Dec. 4, 2008. The law is retroactive to any case still pending even if the original charge was filed previous to the November vote and a doctor’s recommendation is not subject to court review.

My question is: Why isn’t the state getting information about the Michigan Medical Marijuana program out to the stakeholders? If I didn’t know better, I’d almost think the state is ignoring this, in the hopes it will all go away.

In pursuit of education and communication, we’ve been meeting with many groups, professionals and individuals: Law enforcement, health care providers, condition-based groups such as the Cancer Society or AIDS support groups. We’ve met with hospice directors, business groups, it has even been suggested we consult with DARE. Everyone has questions; everyone is looking for answers.

Well, to borrow from our friends in the GLBT community, “We’re here, we’re medicated: get used to it.”

So many questions, so little space. Please visit our Web site at for more information.