March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Local dispensary owner warns Michigan about what might be in store

(The Golden Age of medical marijuana dispensaries is now over. But what happens now for medical marijuana patients? Mike Malott, one of the owners of Safe Harbor dispensary in Lansing, writes about his experiences in San Francisco when the state went through a similar shut down of dispensaries and the parallels with Michigan's current situation)

Monday, Aug. 29 — The recent ruling by the Court of Appeals has brought back concerns for
me of a recurrence of what I experienced back in San Francisco in

Back then California had an Attorney General by the name of Dan
Lungren. Lungren was openly and adamantly against the medical
marijuana issue then going on in California. We had managed to put
medical marijuana on the ballot in California. At that time I was
working for a man named Dennis Peron. Dennis was the main person
behind drafting this proposition known as the “Compassionate Use Act”
or Proposition 215. He was also the owner of the San Francisco
Cannabis Buyers Club, which was a five-story building right on San
Francisco’s main drag, Market Street. There we openly distributed
marijuana to people who had a recommendation from a doctor, or could
present documentation that they had cancer or AIDS.

We had the full support of every bit of San Francisco’s government
agency, even police. Back then there were no medicines available to
help AIDS patients and in many cases marijuana was the only thing
available to improve their quality of life and “wasting” syndrome. The
club also made a place where everybody could socialize because in most
cases this was the only family these people had. Many had been turned
away from their families for having AIDS or being gay. Another
beneficial practice of ours to the community was donating every dollar
bill and all change we took in. Usually adding up to in excess of
$10,000 a week being donated to local AIDS charities.

We had going on three years of uninterrupted service to the community
before Lungren raided and closed down our club. That night, I’ll never
forget. More than 10,000 people joined together that night, all
holding candles and marched in protest all the way down Market Street
from the Castro to the Embarcadero. What a sight that was.

But the following weeks were the most tragic. Patients were now forced
into the street to obtain their meds. As a result of this, crime
skyrocketed against those sick and dying patients. There was a high
rate of hate crimes committed against gays and AIDS patients. Many
patients were actually murdered for simply trying to obtain meds.
Every day the papers echoed about crimes being committed within the
city against patients. What better targets for criminals than sick and
dying people?

The crimes committed against patients became so severe that many of the
city's churches literally started to distribute medical marijuana and
San Francisco residents publicly lobbied to declare a medical emergency
allowing us to reopen our doors.

Those days are now long behind us and California has set up a device to
control and tax the distribution of medical marijuana, allowing
dispensaries to operate. The system works and created thousands of jobs
and brings in millions in tax revenue which benefits the state’s

I now look at Michigan’s patients and see San Francisco occurring all
over and this causes me great concern. Concern for the welfare and
safety of patients who will now also be forced into the street and
underground to obtain their meds. It also means that money from those
sales will now fund the distribution of more dangerous drugs onto the
streets. It will also benefit gangs and other criminal activity, and
even the Mexican Drug Cartel, as opposed to benefiting the community
and its safety. Communities which have been laying off members of its
police force due to budget cuts. Communities which will now see crime
rates increase because the recent court decision is a great victory for
all those all those involved in illegal drug sales in each of
Michigan’s communities.

Lawmakers had a responsibility and over two years to revive laws
similar to how lawmakers on the west coast created California SB420,
which addressed and defined everything we hadn’t included in our
“Compassionate Use Act.”

I can only pray for the safety of all Michigan patients whose safety and welfare has now greatly been compromised.