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Criminal Justice & Legal System

Michigan voters OK'd medical marijuana in 2008. Why are fewer patients signing up?

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FLICKR USER DAVID TRAWIN / FLICKR
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On Election Day in 2008, Michigan voters said yes to medical marijuana. The vote came despite federal laws banning the sale and consumption of pot.

Since then, local ordinances and court rulings have created a patchwork of rules on the medical marijuana front. Following a 2013 Michigan Supreme Court ruling, patients remain protected as consumers even though sellers no longer have a clear-cut legal protection to sell.

And since 2011, there’s been a drop in the number of patients receiving medical marijuana ID cards.

Michael Komorn, a Southfield attorney and the president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said this dip is likely due to the way the medical marijuana law was amended. Patients now register once every two years, where in the past they registered once a year.

“So I think inherently the numbers are down because of that change in the law,” Komorn said.

But he says the way the law has been implemented has also affected the numbers. 

Enforcement of the law "varies from community to community, county to county," said Komorn. "Different law enforcement agencies or even prosecutors have taken a different approach to it. Some are very hands-on and are leading the charge in terms of prosecuting and creating new cases. Others have taken a more hands-off approach, so you have a great disparity throughout the state, which is a problem.”

Kormorn said those differences in interpretation and enforcement mean confusion for patients and caregivers.