Medical marijuana patients must wait for state-issued cards.
Almost 2,000 people have applied to use and grow medical marijuana in Michigan, and roughly half fall in a legal black hole where they have letters recommending its use but not the state-issued cards that make it legal.
Of the applications, about 700 have not yet been processed and 260 have been rejected, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health. Some people who have cards now face legal questions because the state took months to launch its ID program after the law went into effect.
“There hasn’t been quite the degree of confusion as in the Michigan program,” Dan Bernath, a spokesman for the Washington-based Marijuana Policy Project, said about the other states the group has guided in starting medical marijuana programs.
Medical marijuana advocates maintain a doctor’s letter is sufficient to prevent prosecution for small amounts of marijuana, but state health officials disagree.
“You needed to wait until the program was established,” said James McCurtis, spokesman for the MDCH.
In the courts, the law is being tested by Bob Redden, 59, and Torey Clark, 47, of Madison Heights, who face a preliminary examination Wednesday on felony charges of manufacturing marijuana. Police took multiple plants during a late March raid on their home. While they both have cards now, the raid came before the state was issuing them. Their attorney is trying to get the charges thrown out because they had doctor’s letters.
The defense could work, said David A. Moran, co-director of the Michigan Innocence Clinic at the University of Michigan, but it’s “an expensive, dangerous risk to take.”
McCurtis said another gray area is the roughly 15 days between submitting an application and when the card is in hand. And while most of the denials thus far have been for improperly filled-out applications, they still represent one out of every six processed applications.
Stephanie Annis, 30, of New Hudson said many patients can’t wait for the card. She wants one for appetite stimulation after multiple surgeries left the 5-foot-6 graduate student at 99 pounds and without much of her intestinal tract.
She’s on disability, and since April has tried to gather required documents to qualify for a reduced fee of $25 for the card, rather than $100. The soonest she says she thinks she would get her card is late June.”I would think the doctor would be the authority,” she said.
BY MEGHA SATYANARAYANA • FREE PRESS STAFF WRITER
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