For some, it’s been a godsend — allowing them to ease chronic pain or minimize the after-effects of debilitating chemotherapy treatments.
But the medical marijuana law, approved in November by Michigan voters, hasn’t been without its hiccups as law enforcement, health-care providers and state officials work through the implementation of the law.
To help answer patients’ questions and address other concerns, Roger Maufort of Jackson recently founded the Jackson County Compassion Club, a support group for patients who are now allowed to legally use marijuana for medicinal purposes.
”My wife has chronic pain, (so) when the law passed, I wanted to learn more,” Maufort said.
Under the law, a patient must obtain a written certification from a physician that verifies the patient has a debilitating medical condition, such as cancer or AIDS. They then apply for a registry identification card with the state Bureau of Health Professions within the Department of Community Health.
As of Friday, the state had received 1,894 applications and had issued 1,367 registry identification cards, spokesman James McCurtis said. Of the 1,367 cards issued, 1,021 were for patients and 346 were for caregivers, he said.
Dr. Daniel Michael, president-elect of the Michigan State Medical Society, said many physicians were disappointed that the law passed. He and other doctors have seen an influx of patients asking for marijuana prescriptions.
”That’s not the way we would like to do medicine in the 21st century,” he said.
Michael said the Michigan State Medical Society is monitoring the state law guidelines closely.
Local law enforcement is also keeping a close eye on things.
”It’s going to be a challenge for the criminal justice system,” Jackson County Sheriff Dan Heyns said. ”(But) we’re very early in the game.”
Registered patients or caregivers are allowed to grow limited amounts of marijuana in an enclosed, locked facility.
However, the law neither protects marijuana plants from being seized nor individuals from being prosecuted if the federal government chooses to take action against patients and caregivers under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Carol Martin, a member of the Jackson County Compassion Club, has had chronic back pain since 1984 and recently started using marijuana for medicinal purposes after years of taking painkillers.
”It was a big eye-opener to see what a difference it made in one night,” she said. ”It was such a relief to have relaxed muscles and no headaches.”
The local group, which had more than 50 people attend this month’s meeting, is one of more than 20 Compassion Clubs affiliated with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.
Greg Francisco, executive director and founder of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said those clubs are not meeting places for people to exchange marijuana.
”I honestly think we’re going to look back a year from now and say, ‘What was all the fuss about?’ ” he said about the new law.
By Tarryl Jackson