By Kaytlyn L. Sheldon

Special to the Osceola Edition

Ever wonder what the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act is really about?

Now is your chance to find out.

You can get all your questions answered at a town hall meeting from 6 to 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, March 1 at the Mecosta-Osceola Intermediate School District (MOISD) Miller Wing.

“Even though there were events held by the Attorney General around the State recently, not everyone was able to attend,” explained Mecosta County Sheriff Todd Purcell. “Therefore a local event was developed to meet the needs of the community.”

“We are hoping to educate the community on what the MMMA says, what is allowed, what is not allowed, how this applies to our everyday lives, as well as what are we seeing in our neighborhoods because of this act,” said prevention coordinator Kim Livingston at the Ten Sixteen Recovery Network.

The law took effect on April 4, 2009 and offers protection from state law enforcement for qualifying patients and their assigned primary caregivers.

“This act started as a voter initiative that was sold to the public as being a way for persons with serious and debilitating medical conditions to be able to alleviate pain through the use of marijuana,” explained Mecosta County Prosecuting Attorney Peter Jaklevic. “Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved of the initiative.”

Under the law, a patient with a qualifying condition and a signed statement from an attending physician, can register for an identification card for legal medical marijuana use in Michigan. After registration, the patient and primary caregiver can legally be in possession of marijuana according to State law.

“The community should be aware that the law they voted in is not doing what it was intended to do,” said Detox Program Manager Tori Back at the Ten Sixteen Recovery Network. “There are ‘clinics’ and doctors that come in from out of town. For a fee, they will certify almost anyone for a medical marijuana card.”

There has been a lot of confusion regarding this act.

“The law as passed does not allow legalized marijuana dealing for profit,” said Jaklevic. “Yet, as we saw, marijuana dispensaries across Michigan opened and were selling marijuana for profit. In essence, the law was used by marijuana dealers to open storefront properties and advertise publicly.”

“Other problems with the law is that law enforcement has no way to determine who is a valid patient or provider entitled to possess and grow marijuana until the individual shows police their card identifying them as such,” added Jaklevic.

This poses significant problems regarding search warrants.

“Search warrant executions are, by their very nature, not only highly intrusive to the homeowner, but also dangerous to the police executing the warrant,” explained Jaklevic. “Without a database accessible to law enforcement, homeowners otherwise compliant with state law risk police intrusion into their homes. For their part, police would much rather be using their valuable time elsewhere.”

“The bottom line is, it is still illegal to possess marijuana under federal law,” added Back. “If we are going to continue to support medical marijuana in Michigan, the law needs to be written with very specific guidelines, strict boundaries for its use, and guidelines for law enforcement to be able to police its use. And of course, it needs to be written which law takes precedence, federal or state.”

Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan’s (PAAM) Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor Ken Strecker will speak about the act. Strecker has more than 21 years of prosecution experience and has tried every traffic offense imaginable, from civil infractions to vehicular homicide. He also has extensive teaching experience as an adjunct faculty member at Kellogg Community College for the past 15 years.

Panel guests Prosecutor Pete Jaklevic, Sheriff Todd Purcell, Undersheriff James Taylor, as well as Ten Sixteen Detox Supervisor Tori Back will discuss how the MMMA affects the areas of law enforcement and substance abuse treatment.

“Our goal is to provide education and up-to-date information regarding the law,” explained Purcell. “We are also there to answer questions that community members may have and to provide as much information as we can.”

The MOISD Is located at 15760 190th Ave. in Big Rapids. This event is sponsored by the Mecosta Osceola Coalition to Reduce Underage Drinking. For more information, please contact Livingston at (231) 527-2000.

“We put forth the invitation for all to come and become educated on the law and updates to it,” added Purcell. “And to have the questions they may have, answered.”