Last week, Michigan authorities raided three marijuana dispensaries, confiscated files, and plants and arrested 15 people, charging them with dealing marijuana, among other offenses. Stateline.org says the move stunned patients, who are allowed by state law to use the drug legally as long as they have a required state-issued card declaring medical need. The statute, on the books via a 2008 ballot initiative, says nothing about dispensaries. Instead, it only allows patients to grow their own pot, or to get it from a caregiver who can provide marijuana to no more than five people.
The Oakland County incident highlights a legal conundrum at the heart of many state marijuana laws. In seven of the 14 states that allow marijuana use for medical purposes, registered patients are allowed to grow their own supply or designate somebody as their grower. Michigan is one of those states. But the Michigan law is silent on how patients or their providers are supposed to begin growing an otherwise tightly controlled drug. “The federal law says no [to dispensaries]. The state law says no,” says Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper. How are patients and caregivers supposed to get seeds and cuttings or learn how to grow marijuana without a dispensary to guide them? “Beats the heck out of me,” Cooper says. “These statutes aren't well written.”