Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Michigan bureaucrats mucking up medical marijuana

One of the problems with passing a medical marijuana initiative, as Michigan did last November, is that state bureaucrats and regulators get involved in interpreting and enforcing it, making something intended to be very simple and straightforward quite complex. In addition, while it may be unfair to impute such motives yet, our experience in California -- still struggling for proper implementation after 12 years -- is that some regulatory and law enforcement people who opposed the law in the first place will try to interpret it in ways that effectively nullify it.

When I was writing my book, "Waiting to Inhale," on medical marijuana, I interviewed Dennis Peron, the Calif. initiative's author dozens of times, and he made clear that what he wanted was a simple regimen whereby legitimate patients could get relatively hassle-free access to their medicine. Aside from the mistake of including the term "primary caregiver" in the language, that's what he wrote. But some cops wanted to do an arrest-first-sort-it-out-at-trial policy and others refused to return confiscated medicine. Some clearly hate the law and worked virtually openly to subvert it.

You can see some of this in Michigan now, where they are holding hearings on draft implementation procedures and getting flack both from medical marijuana patients and advocates and the police as well. Some of the rules seem just silly -- requiring patients to keep their medicine in a locked cabinet when there are no similar requirements for prescription medications that are literally hundreds of times more potentially dangerous. And they do seem to go beyond the scope of what the initiative asked the Michigan Department of Community Health to do -- set up a patient registry system, not write a bunch of rules and regulations.

Some of this is the result of the ignorance that always comes from outlawing one of God's creations -- people believe all sorts of complete nonsense about the dangers of marijuana. And some is due to the ridiculously over-bureaucratized society we have become, with legions of overseers who think they have a license to micromanage our lives. It will be interesting to see how it all turns out.

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