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Medical News

Patient-to-Patient Transfers Legal

Barry County Circuit Judge Amy McDowell dismissed felony delivery of marihuana charges after finding that a transfer of less than 2.5 ounces of marihuana between Qualifying Patients is protected by Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act. The Judge based her decision on the clear language of the Act.  Specifically, she noted that a Qualifying Patient engaged in the “medical use” of marihuana is protected from prosecution or penalty. And because “medical use” is statutorily defined to include the “transfer” and “delivery” of marihuana, the felony charge for delivering marihuana could not stand.

 

Matt Newburg of Newburg Law, PLLC represented the Defendant and said “it is refreshing to see the facts applied to the law.  We felt confident about our case and knew it would come down to the clear language in the statute.  We have always believed patient-to-patient transfers were not only protected but authorized by the Medical Marihuana Act.”

 

It is not clear whether the Barry County Prosecuting Attorney will appeal the Judge’s decision.

 

Click here to read Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss, here to read the prosecuting attorney’s brief and here to read Defendant’s response to the Prosecuting Attorney brief.

 

US Reps, CA AG Chide Feds on Medical Marijuana

The unhappy reaction to the renewed federal offensive against medical marijuana growers and distributors continues to spread, with several members of Congress and California's attorney general among the latest to voice their displeasure.

[image:1 align:left]Since the Sacramento press conference last month where California's four US Attorneys announced a crackdown on the medical marijuana using heavy-handed raids on businesses in exemplary compliance with state and local laws and a wave of letters to dispensary landlords threaten property seizure or even criminal prosecution if they don't throw out their medical marijuana tenants, reaction among medical marijuana supporters, including elected officials, has been growing.

On Friday, nine members of Congress, led by Reps. Sam Farr (D-CA) and Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), sent a letter to President Obama expressing "concern with the recent activity by the Department of Justice against legitimate medical marijuana dispensaries in California that are operating legally under state law." The other congressional signers were Reps. Mike Thompson (D-CA), Jared Polis (D-CO), Pete Stark (D-CA), Steve Cohen (D-TN), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), and Bob Filner (D-CA).

Citing "aggressive SWAT-style federal raids in at least seven states," as well as threats directed at landlords and elected officials, the solons told the president such actions "directly interfere with California's 15-year-old medical cannabis law by eliminating safe access to medication for the state's thousands of medical marijuana patients."

The nine US representatives called on the president to reschedule marijuana as either a Schedule II or Schedule III drug with recognized medicinal uses, either by administrative action or by supporting legislation to achieve that end. A bill that would do just that, H.R. 1983, the States' Medical Marijuana Patient Protection Act, has already been filed, they helpfully pointed out.

A week before the congressional letter, California Attorney General Kamala Harris added her voice to the choir of the concerned. "Californians overwhelmingly support the compassionate use of medical marijuana for the ill," she noted in a statement.

"While there are definite ambiguities in state law that must be resolved either by the state legislature or the courts, an overly broad federal enforcement campaign will make it more difficult for legitimate patients to access physician-recommended medicine in California," the state's highest elected law enforcement officer said. "I urge the federal authorities in the state to adhere to the United States Department of Justice’s stated policy and focus their enforcement efforts on ‘significant traffickers of illegal drugs.'"

In mid-October, state Sen. Mark Leno (D-San Francisco) and Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco), stalwart friends of marijuana law reform, were among the first to speak out against the federal crackdown, followed shortly by fellow San Franciscan state Sen. Leland Yee (D).

"Medical marijuana dispensaries are helping our economy, creating jobs, and most importantly, providing a necessary service for suffering patients," Lee said in a statement. "There are real issues and real problems that the US Attorney's Office should be focused on rather than using their limited resources to prosecute legitimate businesses or newspapers. Shutting down state-authorized dispensaries will cost California billions of dollars and unfairly harm thousands of lives."

In the face of widespread criticism, the US Attorneys have attempted to insulate their boss from the political heat, with a spokesperson making pains to tell the Huffington Post they had coordinated only with the Justice Department, not the Obama administration. But it is ultimately President Obama who is in charge, and who will pay whatever political price is to be paid.

 

Study: Legal Medical Marijuana Doesn't Encourage Kids to Smoke More Pot

 

Despite warnings from opponents of medical marijuana, legalizing the drug for medical purposes does not encourage teens to smoke more pot, according to new research that compared rates of marijuana use in Massachusetts and Rhode Island after the latter state changed its laws.

Rhode Island legalized medical marijuana in 2006, but Massachusetts did not. "We wanted to pair these two states because they have so much in common culturally and geographically," says Dr. Esther Choo, assistant professor of emergency medicine at Brown University's Warren Alpert Medical School and emergency medicine physician at Rhode Island Hospital.

Choo's analysis used data collected from 1997 to 2009 for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's annual Youth Risk Behavior Survey. The analysis involved nearly 13,000 youth in Rhode Island and about 25,000 in Massachusetts. In each state in any given year, the study found, about 30% of youth reported using marijuana at least once in the previous month.

In other words, while marijuana use was common, there was no significant difference in rates of pot use between the years before and after legalization in Rhode Island. "We found no effect of the policy change," says Choo.

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These results are consistent with a 2005 analysis conducted by Mitch Earleywine, associate professor of psychology at the State University of New York–Albany, for the Marijuana Policy Project. He found that between 1996 — when California passed its medical marijuana law — and 2004, previous-month pot use by ninth graders declined by 47%. That was a slightly steeper decline than seen nationally during the same period, and Earleywine found a similar effect in all of the medical marijuana states he studied.

Of the new study, Earleywine says, it is "very careful about potential covariates and looks closely at a couple of states across time in a way that my work didn't." He adds: "Of course, I'm delighted to see that their work confirms my previous report that medical marijuana laws do not increase teen use."

Although legalizing medical marijuana may increase access for some, Choo notes that it is typically a very small population who uses marijuana for therapy — and these aren't people whom teens are likely to emulate. "Whether they are taking it for pain or for vomiting control or appetite, this is not a group we think of as superinspiring for young people to take up their drug pattern. It's an older population who is generally very ill," says Choo.

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It's important to note that neither Choo's nor Earleywine's analyses have been subjected to peer review. Choo's work was presented on Wednesday at the American Public Health Association's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. She is planning to do further analysis, including data from additional states, for future publication.

But both studies are consistent with state and international data showing similar trends. Research has found that rates of youth drug use don't correlate with marijuana arrests or, at the other end of the spectrum, total decriminalization of marijuana possession.

Could it be possible that associating pot with uncool old people and making it legitimate, rather than rebellious, actually deters use by youth?

MORE: Obama's Misguided Crackdown on Medical Marijuana

Maia Szalavitz is a health writer at TIME.com. Find her on Twitter at @maiasz. You can also continue the discussion on TIME Healthland's Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIMEHealthland.

   

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