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Legal Pot Applications Swamp State

Daily Dose 2010-09-24 0 comments

By Cecil Angel, Originally published on

MICHIGAN – State health officials are overwhelmed with applicants seeking to use marijuana legally for medical conditions, a state official said Tuesday.

The Michigan Department of Community Health received 56,513 applications for its registry of authorized users in the past 19 months, including new applications and renewals. It has a policy to approve or deny applications in 15 days.

“We’re not doing that,” said Melanie Brim, director of the department’s Bureau of Health Professions. She discussed the problem at the Michigan Municipal League’s annual convention at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Dearborn. Brim was one of three speakers at a discussion titled the Medical Marijuana Act and Your Community.

Communities across the state have created ordinances to address vague parts of the law and to regulate or ban marijuana dispensaries. Last month, three businesses and 12 homes of medical marijuana distributors were raided in Oakland County.

Last week in Auburn Hills, a man was arrested on charges of having only a 4-foot chain link fence around his marijuana plants. State law requires that the plants be in a secured and locked area.

Speakers at Tuesday’s event included Catherine Mish, the city attorney for Grand Rapids, one of the first cities in the state to enact an ordinance governing medical marijuana after the law took effect in April 2009, and Andria Ditschman of the Hubbard Law Firm in Lansing, which advises communities seeking to draft ordinances.

All said the law is too vague in areas.

Brim said that the health department is thousands of applications behind and now allows applicants who have waited at least 20 days to show a copy to law enforcement.

The department issued 32,270 new and renewal patient cards and 13,868 caregiver cards for people who assist those who have patient cards.

Brim said the department underestimated the number of applicants it would have.

Mish urged cities to join in lawsuits to determine whether the state law is valid under the “federal supremacy clause.” It is not legal to grow, possess, use or sell marijuana under federal law.

Ditschman advised cities thinking of regulating medical marijuana to take a licensing or zoning approach.

“You don’t want to overregulate because that will set you up for litigation,” she said.