With the November 8th election approaching, several hot button issues are being debated and voted on. But despite the efforts of attorney Josh Covert and the marijuana lobbying group MI Legalize, marijuana legalization isn’t one of them.
“We started our campaign to collect 253,000 valid signatures and if we had been successful it’d be on the 2016 ballot,” Covert said.
Covert and MI Legalize were ultimately able to collect 354,000 signatures, over 100,000 more than legally required, to get their initiative…on the ballot. Their hope was that the initiative which could legalize marijuana for people 21 and over, would be voted on this November. However, per the Michigan Court of Claims, signatures that are more than 180 days old, which accounted for more than 200,000 of their signatures, are void, thus stopping the initiative from going to a vote. Now Covert says a legal battle is underway, with hopes for the 2018 ballot.
“We collected enough signatures. There’s been a legal battle. At this point we’re left to get remedy from The United States Supreme Court,” Covert said. “We’re gonna be pursuing it, although it looks like the ballot issues probably will likely will be something that will be considered for 2018 at this point.”
Since the statewide legalization of medical marijuana passed with 63 percent of the vote in 2008, voters have warmed to the idea of loosening marijuana laws. According to a 2016 Detroit Free Press poll, 53 percent of likely voters would vote in favor of legalizing and taxing marijuana, compared to 50 percent in 2014… and 47 percent in 2013. However, Covert says the labels of ‘recreational’… and ‘medical’… marijuana are unnecessary.
“Well I don’t see the need to differentiate between medical and recreational. I think we do a disservice when we refer to it as medical marijuana or recreational marijuana,” Covert said. “The role I see marijuana playing is more part of a healthy lifestyle.”
The confusion between medical and recreational marijuana use has become a point of contention for law enforcement, leading some medical patients to be targeted. For example, Lansing resident Steve Green says he didn’t consider marijuana a medicine until he tried cannabis oil to treat his epilepsy.
“Not until 2006 when I started having grand mal seizures um did I actually consider it to have a medical value,” Green said. “And then by 2010 when I was living seizure free from using cannabis oil is when I really took hold of it and it changed my life completely.”
Green and his wife Maria, also a medical marijuana patient, had been legally growing cannabis in their house when police raided their home. Even though they were both licensed marijuana patients, they were charged with felony drug manufacturing. While they were fighting the charges, Green was told as a condition of his bond that he could not use marijuana to treat his seizures. During this time when he wasn’t allowed to treat his epilepsy with cannabis, his condition worsened.
“Yeah I had eight grand mal seizures during the time that I was refrained from being able to use it,” Green said.
That’s compared to no seizures while using cannabis oil.
One of the reason Green’s family was targeted is because of the difference between local and federal law. No matter how a state or county treats marijuana, federal law still states that possession or consumption of marijuana is illegal. For example, even though possession of marijuana is now decriminalized in East Lansing, Captain Doug Monette of The Michigan State University Police Department said that his department will still arrest and prosecute marijuana users.
“Despite the May 2015 vote in East Lansing to decriminalize, per city law, the possession or use of less than an ounce of marijuana, state and federal law still prohibits the use and possession of marijuana,” Monette said via emailed statement. “Students and employees also should be aware that despite the vote in East Lansing, state and federal law still applies and those who use or possess marijuana in the city could face arrest and prosecution.”
Lansing resident and activist Jonathan Thompson says that medical marijuana patients like his wife face employment discrimination as well.
“She was specifically sought out for a position and then she was interviewed and she was offered the position and they told her she was gonna have to take a drug test,” Thompson said. “When she told them she has a prescription for cannabis for her fibromyalgia they told her that that is not a reason to fail the drug test and so she said ‘well I guess I can’t take your job then.’”