May 8, 2010
Our friend George and the members of the House Intergovernmental and Investigations committee will be taking action between now and Thursday May 27, 2010, to address the complaints from participants in the program. The committee will take action by amending an existing supplemental appropriations bill for the program instead of adding another one. The amount to cover the additional expenses for the technology services will be added to this account for the Michigan Department of Community Health Medical Marijuana Program MDCH/MMP. This will cover the costs of the contract work for processing Medical Marijuana Applications. The two major complaints are the un-acceptable delay in processing the cards and the formation of the 15 member board to review petitions to place additional qualifying medical conditions on the current list. After listening to testimony from participants in the program, State officials, and outside experts in the field of Marijuana Information Systems, the committee will issue a directive to get the job done.
An opinion from the Attorney General Office regarding the legality to privatize the application process is currently under review. Patients are rightfully concerned regarding their privacy rights and the potential for abuse from law enforcement. However the argument cannot be supported because all private vendors to the State of Michigan must abide by confidentiality agreements or face fines, imprisonment, or both.
(Listen to State Employee Rose-Johnson King discussing data security in State of Michigan)
Companies like Unisys, IBM, Compuware, EDS, and the other myriad number of contractors working for the State are all under strict confidentiality laws. Unisys is a major contractor of hardware and support services to the State. The Department of Treasury has been a Unisys customer for years and they cannot and better not access confidential taxpayer information for their own use. Other departments like State Police and the Department of Transportation use contracted services from private agencies.
We expect the Attorney General to give the ok to allow the process to go out to bid. MDCH is currently not in compliance with the law and may be exposing the department to lawsuits and fines because of needless wrangling. The Attorney General has precedent setting contracts in place now with private contractors who do work for the Department of Technology Management and Budget (DTMB). Anything other than approval from the Attorney General would be a cause for the people to sue the Department into compliance with the law. After all if you are late on your income taxes, you pay a penalty and this is the same type of situation.
After the hearing on May 6, TFOC blogger Richard Clement had a brief interview with Melanie Brim of MDCH and representatives from the Department of State Police.
TFOC: What has the department done to relieve the backlog of applications?
Brim: We have added up to 5 additional full time employees to handle the backlog and added 2 new printers that can print a much larger volume of cards.
TFOC: Is there a solution using Information Technology?
Brim: Yes there is, I will be sending out notices from our office in 15 days stating that this is your temporary ID until you receive your permanent ID.
TFOC: What is the status of the 15 member board to review petitions for additional qualifying medical conditions?
Brim: I have no idea and that one can be answered by the Department Director. The Department Director and the Governor are responsible to appoint the members of that board. They are also responsible for calling meetings to review petitions for additional qualifying medical conditions. This is explicitly written in the law.
TFOC: On calling doctors back for every application what have you all decided to do to end this process?
Brim: I am desperately searching for answers to this entire bottleneck regarding applications. We already have the doctor’s information in our files already. We can send from pre-authorized terminals in remote locations.
TFOC: A patient calls me and asked me if the cards can be printed by the Secretary of State. Is this possible?
Brim: It may not be possible due to the workload at the Secretary of State.
TFOC: Thank you Melanie for your time.
Brim: Thank you Richard, have a good day.
After speaking with Ms. Brim, TFOC had a chance to speak with a Michigan State Trooper representative who was summoned to the meeting at the capitol.
TFOC: Why are law enforcement officials on the state and local level continuing to arrest legal Medical Marijuana patients?
MSP: Our officers have no way of validating a participant based on the paperwork provided by the Department of Community Health. Someone could have taken this paperwork and put it through a copy machine.
TFOC: According to the law, the paperwork is valid after 20 days. What can us as patients do to assist in the process?
MSP: The biggest problem that we have with this program is that we are not being provided a list from the Department of Community Health in a timely manner. There is also a clear lack of leadership in the Attorney General’s office regarding the issuance of a directive to State, County, and Local law enforcement officials on Medical Marijuana participants.
TFOC: Would someone running for Governor and Attorney General be able to fix this problem if they got elected?
MSP: I would hope so because the current situation needs massive improvement.
TFOC: Do you feel that privatizing the MDCH application process will solve the problem?
MSP: I am not going to get involved with that part of the process because it is not in my area. One thing is certain. We will not be calling Community Health on a Saturday or any day after 5:00pm because we know that one is there to answer the phone. This is an area that needs to be addressed immediately by the use of technology tools either by public or private interests. We want the law to work as much as you do because we are tired of prosecuting and arresting people with small quantities of Marijuana. We have bigger fish to fry such as child molesters, spousal abusers, murderers, and rapists.
TFOC: What is a small quantity to a Police Officer?
MSP: Anything under two ounces and if you have no prior felonies or warrants you will be free to go on your way. We are sincerely hoping that we can get information on people in a timely manner. We will be very happy about that.
TFOC: Police officers and firefighters are subjected to injuries and events that cause chronic pain. Being shot at, an injury from falling beams, climbing up roofs, and cinders from fires are events that increase the chances of getting chronic pain. I want to ask you, do you see the time coming when medical marijuana will be accepted as a legal treatment for these loyal public servants?
MSP: I don’t know and I cannot comment on that.
TFOC: Thank you for your time and cooperation.
MSP: Thank you Mr. Clement.
The committee will also issue a directive to take action to assemble the 15 member board that will review additional qualifying medical conditions. This has been overlooked in the process but not forgotten. MDCH Director Janet Olszewski and James McCurtis will be formally asked to select members to that board for the purpose of reviewing petitions to add qualifying conditions. Michigan citizens should not suffer from the poor prioritization of resources from the Director of MDCH and the Governor's office.
By embracing technology these problems would be eliminated and patient cards will be issued in compliance with the law. If you have any comments or questions, please use our blog so that we may review it for action later. Finally, we encourage everyone to contact their State Representative and State Senator in Lansing MI to support the efforts of our friend George and his colleagues to act on the wishes of the people.