While Michigan, with its 2008 medical marijuana legalization, was markedly ahead of Pennsylvania in time, it differs dramatically on substance and in practice.
Michigan, like Pennsylvania, provides a wide range of qualifying conditions for its medical marijuana program. And that’s where the similarities end.
Michigan’s law was a public referendum, not a legislature induced decree. The law was written by well-intentioned marijuana advocates, not experienced law makers, leaving many unanswered questions to judicial interpretation. Law enforcement, prosecutors and the courts have been playing catch-up ever since.
While state law, as interpreted by the courts, has categorically interpreted the law to not allow for dispensaries, major cities like Detroit, situated in Wayne County, has implemented local ordinances to allow for dispensaries. So long as the county sheriff and state police turn their heads, which they do, it is smooth sailing locally. Other cities with similar ordinances, like Ferndale in Oakland County, don’t fare as well due to being situated in counties where the sheriff strictly enforces state law. Hence dispensaries in Michigan are, for the populace as a whole, dependent on state action.
Based in large part on Pennsylvania’s move, it appears that the Michigan legislature now has the moral authority to clean up the mess and enact responsible medical marijuana legislation via House Bills HB 4209, HB 4210 and HB 4827, which will establish legal commercial grow operations, extraction-based infused products and dispensaries. All of which are currently illegal per court interpreted state law.
The House Bills will be likely be passed by the Michigan Senate subsequent to the November 8, 2016 elections, during the lame duck session, allowing for the Governor Snyder to sign them into effect without untimely political ramifications or uncertainties of the national elections.
While it is clear that Michigan’s populace is heavily in favor of medical marijuana legalization (63% voted for it in 2008), Pennsylvania’s legislative action gives Michigan legislators the proverbial thumbs up to finish the job started by the people.