OUR VIEWS: Medical marijuana registry far from perfect

Nov 7, 2012

That equates to nearly 1.5 million plants that can legally be cultivated in this state.

We’re not here to debate the pros and cons of whether marijuana should be illegal, nor do we plan to argue the merits of using the weed for medicinal purposes. But what’s obvious to us, with the recent pot seizure in Spring Lake, is that there needs to be better cooperation between the state medical marijuana licensure agency and police authorities.

As it is now, if someone reports a growing operation in their neighborhood, police can’t simply type the address or the property owner’s name into a registry to determine if they’re licensed to cultivate the potent plants.

Nope, police have to jump through legislative hoops to get a “yes” or “no” answer to whether someone is authorized to grow pot.

But they’d only get that answer once they have the medical marijuana card number. Getting access to the card would, shockingly enough, blow any investigation into an illegal drug operation.

To avoid compromising an investigation, officers often end up getting a warrant, seizing the plants and then sorting it all out later with the state.

This is an undue burden on law enforcement agencies and a waste of precious resources.

Such seizures by officers also seem inherently unfair to those who are playing by the rules.

House Bill 4834, approved this spring, initially sought, in part, to change the state’s medical marijuana provision by allowing direct access to the registry by law enforcement officials. This would have taken care of the glitch in the system. But this particular section of the bill was neutered prior to passage.

The bill awaits Senate review and — like many other measures that seek to amend this law — likely won’t get the three-fourths majority vote, especially not in a lame-duck session.

Legislators need to take a second look at this issue. They need to talk with police officers about the challenges they face — and figure out a better, more cooperative system that still upholds the spirit of the law.

If they don’t, legal growers will continue to be raided, access to legitimate medical marijuana will be reduced for patients and officers will continue to spin their wheels. What a waste.

Our Views reflects the majority opinion of the members of the Grand Haven Tribune editorial board: Kevin Hook, Cheryl Welch, Matt DeYoung, Liz Stuck and Fred VandenBrand. What do you think? E-mail us a letter to the editor to news@grandhaventribune.com or log-in to our website and leave a comment below.

 

Comments

Wingmaster

Legalize it and tax the he!! out of it like cigarettes. Can't wait for the Cannabis and Munchies symposiums! Held yearly on 4/11.

sirhansalot

Common sense is what law enforcement is lacking .They is no need for the police to have excess to your personal medical condition and how you choose to treat it. What happens is the police "wemet" raid a house that they think is an illegal grow op. All they need to do is ask for the person registration information to have a grow op, seems simple… however what we have here locally are money grabbing properly damaging police outfit called "wemet" who go into a home smash grow lights, kill plants, and then ask questions later after they destroy personal property. Often they are found to be at faulty but are not held responsible for the damage they cause. It is very simple task to complete, 1. Do they have proper paper work to have a grow op? YES or NO. No need for raids or waste of tax payers’ money doing any other police work, Just knock on the door and ask

liveyourdream

Good commentary. I agree that the current laws make it difficult for law enforcement but I am not sure that they should have access to cross check who has a card and who doesn't. Could that privledge be abused if they did? Is that why they don't allow that info to be shared? Not sure... Either way, I agree with many of the third party presidential candidates that marijuana should be legalized for adult recreational use anyway so we stop wasting resources and jail space on an activity that is much more benign than drinking alcohol. You can't overdose, you don't get violent, and you don't black out. It is no more a "stepping stone drug" than cigarettes and alcohol. In the real world, upstanding productive and educated citizens use marijuana and are not a menace to society. Maybe corporate influences at the federal level keep the legalization discussion off the table. Maybe Budweiser thinks legalizing it would cut into there profit margin? I think it would increase beer sales... And let's keep a close eye on Colorado now that they legalized it for recreational use. Mountains and marijuana undoubtably go well together and my guess is the underground party will rise to the surface. I hope it will show us that it can be legal while still having a productive and even happier society.

thirdeye

Giving police access to the database would result in unprecedented harassment.

What needs to happen is a law that requires police to submit a search warrant like always, but as an extra step, must make an inquiry to LARA whether the property owner has a valid card and can grow for himself in order for a judge to authorize a warrant, unless clear and convincing criminal element exists not protected under the MMMA, like growing outdoors, selling the plants on the black market, etc. No judge or magistrate should ever be given the power to grant search warrants merely on suspicion of growing marijuana under the assumption the person is doing so illegally.

BradForrester

"But they’d only get that answer once they have the medical marijuana card number. Getting access to the card would, shockingly enough, blow any investigation into an illegal drug operation."

The statement above is not a fact, it's the well-published opinion of law enforcement, and people should know that it's a bald-faced lie. Cops are not prohibited from going up to the front door and knocking. If it's a legal medical cannabis grow, the cops should just leave it alone. If it's an illegal drug operation, they can still go back and conduct a raid. OK, the perpetrators may be gone, but law enforcement has still done their job and stopped the operation, and then they can begin conducting a real criminal investigation and issue warrants for real criminals, if they still remember how that works.

Drug task forces like SANE have become addicted to squeezing people called confidential informants to SET UP other people. That's not police work, that's the lazy cops way to pad arrests to secure additional resources for their departments. Rewarding cops with Byrne Justice Assistance Grant money based on the number of arrests in their area is a practice we used to call "dollars-for-collars". It's a discriminatory policy that has led to the corruption of virtually every narcotics cop across the country, and that corruption has certainly become part of the S.A.N.E. culture and modus operandi.

I'm sick and tired of the media asking law enforcement "how they feel" about any law changes, they shouldn't have an opinion as employees of the people who ordered the change. They are employed to serve, not lobby or complain, and especially not to the press!

This story is a perfect illustration of how modern day propaganda works. Law changes, media asks law enforcement, not the people who have been maliciously prosecuted for a little pot, but the very officials who PROFIT from repressive cannabis laws for their reaction. Law enforcement describes how this law does not apply to them or unfairly ties their hands. Very subtle but highly effective at steering public perception, and a complete betrayal of journalistic ethics as far as I'm concerned. I'm very surprised that the whole Editorial Board is prone to this type of deceptive practice!

karpinn

uhhh - his article leaves a big question - why would the police have to seize the property first? sure, they can get the warrant if they choose, but shouldn't the first step after that be to knock on the door and ask for the registry card? if provided, they can search with the warrant and assess if they owner is in compliance or not. if no card is provided, then they can seize the property...

Paquine LeBongue

"This is an undue burden on law enforcement agencies and a waste of precious resources."

Whether you realize it or not, you just accurately described marijuana prohibition.

The obvious facts are staring you right in the face. In fact, if you apply the conservative ideals your area is well-known for, you'll see that prohibition, and the tremendous waste of the taxpayer dollars expended in trying (while failing) to enforce it, are the antithesis of what many of your readers subscribe to.

You just need to take off the blinders.

ohwell

Pretty simple.....do away with this "medical marijuana". Then when someone is caught growing, there are no questions if it is "legal" or not. They go straight to jail. Problem is the people growing it are using it for recreational purposes for themselves. I know for a fact that there is a grower in GH that is using their product that they are growing. Plus I would dare to say they are selling it people that shouldn't have it in the first place.

AtomicRooster

I for one think it should be legalized straight across the board whether you use it for recreational purposes or medicinal. It is so dumb that it is illegal in the first place. Do you realize we as a nation have prohibited marijuana longer than alcohol yet alcohol remains legal? That makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. Colorado, Washington State, and Oregon have already passed it to be legal and Michigan needs to get with the program. We are never going to win the war on drugs and it is just a waste of taxpayer dollars trying to do so. First and foremost it would get the pushers off the street. Legalizing it throughout the nation would bring in revenue, bust up the drug cartels, create jobs. Yes, I said JOBS. Naturally, there would be age restrictions to purchase it and driving under the influence would be treated the same as drunk driving.

ohwell

No stiffer penalties for getting got with drugs will be good determent as well. Like go straight to jail do not pass go for possessing any amount of any illegal drug. An automatic 10 year sentence with no chance of parole. That too would create jobs in the prison system. Instead of a slap on the wrist for a drug offense, there needs to be a real punishment. You mention drunk driving. How many people are out there have been already arrested numerous times for driving drunk? Lots. Why, because they get a slap on the wrist and they are on their way to get behind the wheel again under the influence. Since when has the government been able to regulate anything properly? Never.....

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