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Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Restoring the Revenue: A Status Report on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program.

The Friends of George Cushingberry Jr.
October 14, 2009

As Michigan citizens watch the budget drama from Lansing between the legislators and the Governor, there is one glimmer of success from the State of Michigan. The credit for this progress goes to the voters of the State of Michigan approving the Medical Marijuana law by a large %63 of the vote. The Medical Marijuana program is quickly becoming a victim of its own success. The entire process as approved by the voters was designed for a 20 day maximum turnaround procedure if there were no issues regarding the application.

If there was a problem, the applicant was allowed a 15 day time period to correct the error(s). With only 5 Full Time Employee (F.T.E.) positions allotted to the program, it has generated close to $450,000 in a six month period ending September 30, 2009. The law currently calls for applications to be approved in a 15 day time period with a valid card being issued 5 days after approval.

At the request of our friend George, T.F.O.C. blogger Richard Clement was in attendance at the 1st Michigan Medical Marijuana Symposium held at the Wayne State University Law School on October 3, 2009. The event was organized by retired Detroit Police Officer Daniel Solano of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition (L.E.A.P.) and founder of Police Officers for Drug Law Reform. The people of the State of Michigan were represented well by Ms. Melanie Brimm Director of the State Health Professionals bureau at the Department of Community Health. She is responsible for licensing and regulation of all medical professionals in the State of Michigan and she gave a wonderful speech on guidelines, regulation and progress of the program.

Ms. Brimm gave detailed statistics on the progress of the program and where it stands as of Sept 30, 2009. The bureau is receiving an average of 58 applications per day and had 6998 applications. Of that number 6166 are card carrying participants and 4398 of those are patients. Regarding fees collected %50 of the participants paid the $100.00 regular fee and %50 paid the reduced $25.00 fee for persons who are on SSI. Given these numbers, the program will make well over 1 million dollars in a 12 month period. The leading conditions for Marijuana recommendation as of September 30, 2009 are nausea, pain, and muscle spasms. There is a projected increase in certifying medical professionals of %10 per month over the next 6-18 months.

She also discussed the status of the 15 member board of medical professionals that the law required to be assembled. This board is responsible for reviewing additional qualifying medical conditions that are not currently listed. To be added the new condition must show where Marijuana can make a positive difference in relief of the ailment. Conditions such as depression, job stress, terminal conditions are some of the ones being reviewed by this panel.

To acquire approval, a person must provide actual research with studies and evidence to support their petition to add a qualifying medical condition. Witness with credentials such as medical professionals, research documents, and actual patients serve as excellent sources of evidence. This review panel has to follow the rules of Michigan Administrative Procedure and the board’s decision can be appealed to the Ingham County Circuit Court in Lansing Michigan. Meeting dates will be published and the public will be notified by law.

Physician participation is voluntary and patients can go to any medical professional willing to take your case with regards to a recommendation. Some of the challenges and opportunities of the new law are the establishment of “caregiver networks”, establishing a legal level of Marijuana in a person’s system to declare a person legally high and, the creation of a list of drug interaction guidelines that medical professionals can follow.

On the legal front, the magic word is affirmative defense. I asked attorney Cushingberry to tell me what does that mean? He told me that affirmative defense is providing law enforcement a valid reason for possessing up to 2.5 ounces of Marijuana so that you will be in compliance with State of Michigan Law. If you get arrested your attorney will provide the judge with an affirmative defense, your case will be dismissed, and you will be entitled to the return of your property (medicine). That’s how the law works Richard. Attorney Matt Abel, general counsel for MI-NORML confirmed what attorney Cushingberry had detailed to me and said that I had consulted an excellent legal mind in Mr. Cushingberry.

The last concern that Ms. Brimm talked about was the problems caused by the Department of Information Technology. Currently the data resides on a “restricted server” where only 5 people in the State of Michigan have access to it. Ms. Brimm assured some of the members in the audience regarding the confidentiality of their information.

However some members of the audience posed detailed questions to Ms. Brimm that she was not able to answer at the moment.

1. What is the status of online verification of a valid Med. Marijuana Card by Law Enforcement? (US Customs, State Police, County Sherriff, Detroit Police, etc.)
2. Will the Department convert the existing process to an online registration and renewal procedure?
3. Will the Department provide a real time summary count of applications received, processed, dollars received, conditions applied for, conditions approved with all of this information displayed on the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program website? An average Information Technology professional would complete this job within 8 hours of it being assigned.

A copy of these questions will be sent to Melanie for answers and, if you have any questions regarding the program, please e-mail Melaine Brimm or call her at (517) 373-8165. Ms. Brim is a State of Michigan Government employee who is truly trying to help the people.

Our friend George is a big supporter of open government and if you have time feel free to contact him at his office in Lansing. He would love to hear from you! This is a request to his constituents in Detroit and other Michigan residents who have a concern for open and honest government to contact him when you get some time.

Office Address
S0687 House Office Building

Mailing Address
P.O. Box 30014
Lansing, MI 48909-7514

Phone: (517) 373-2276
Fax: (517) 373-7186
Toll-Free: (888) 347-8008

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