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Michigan Continues To Debate Dispensaries

Posted By Nick Mordowanec On April 25, 2010 @ 11:38 am In News | 59 Comments

Almost a year and a half after medicinal marijuana was officially enacted into Michigan law, there are still many opinions about what the law suggests and what it actually means.

One topic of continued conversation involves growing dispensaries.

While the law is purely intended to provide marijuana as a form of medicinal healing for patients and caregivers, there is still a dispute over whether dispensaries, which typically are capable of growing a more copious amount of marijuana, can eventually become money-making operation.

“(The law) was written with the most simplicity,” said Rev. Steve Thompson of MI NORML, the executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws. “When we wrote the law, we didn’t want to go the route of California.”

Thompson refers to the great amount of dispensaries spread across the state of California and the commercialism which has been associated with them. He says the goal of reforming Michigan’s legislation was strictly to provide patients with medicinal marijuana, rather than start setting up dispensaries which would make money off of them.

When Thompson was asked whether the medicinal marijuana law would have been voted into state law if dispensaries were included, he indicated there would not have been overwhelming support and doubted the law would have passed.

As Thompson and others are against the inception of dispensaries in the state, it was ironically a NORML member who actually set up one of the state’s first dispensaries in Ann Arbor – much to the chagrin of his peers.

“He was not arrested,” Thompson said. “But police took his product and computer and it cost him lot of money. Local officials don’t really know what’s going on, as if they didn’t read the law. Nobody has shut him down.”

While Thompson is a strong advocate for justice in terms of reaping the benefits of marijuana, his disdain towards dispensaries is not shared by everyone.

“The law was so loosely written,” said Rev. Wayne Dagit, Founder of Green Leaf University, CFCC Ministries and the Green Leaf Smokers Club. “There wasn’t enough knowledge as a group of deciding council members to actually determine and facilitate the need a patient has and what the passing of the law dictates such as need for dispensaries.”

Dagit’s argument isn’t too far off from that of Thompson, although he believes dispensaries provide a place “to assemble as any other fraternal or autonomous organization should be able to do instead of having to hide, or if in a family situation that dictates it, have to go elsewhere to medicate.”

Although there is no consensus regarding dispensaries — which are starting to show up more and more in the southeast part of the state — there seems to be agreement as to why a misconception continues to plague the state.

“A lot of state legislators are still pissed about the law being enacted in the first place,” Thompson said. “NORML is trying to make sure politicians support the medicinal marijuana law.”

Thompson reiterated how important the 2010 election is going to be in Michigan as 72 percent of new legislators will be voted in by the public, including a new governor and attorney general.

Dagit, on the other hand, doesn’t understand why the government taxes other substances but still will not legalize marijuana.

Dagit said, “Alcohol is much worse but is taxed and both the government as well as local taxation is a big portion of every state’s revenue. Why can’t hemp or medical grade marijuana be as well?”

This leads to the grand question: Will marijuana laws change drastically this decade?

Thompson thinks so, pointing out what has already happened in California, as well as “strong” efforts in Washington and Oregon to regulate and tax cannabis.

“Oregon is working on it legislative-wise, not voter-wise, and both are strong possibilities to follow suit with California,” Thompson said. It is due time that the rest of the states will follow suit.”

“Before we see a regulation and taxation system, we need to see the feds recognize marijuana through the federal government.”

And for people like Dagit, who have devoted countless years to the cause of bringing marijuana into the mainstream, all the turmoil may pay off sooner rather than later.

“It’s an old and beat to death argument, so someone has to pave the way,” Dagit said. “Sometimes (it’s) an expense, but the impact for the effort is always greater.”


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