Michigan is once again in the positive spotlight on a national scale, thanks to the cannabis community. Our continuing effort to normalize the use of marijuana to treat the sick and injured is progressing within our state and our successes are gaining fame beyond Michigan. To that end we have seen the Past, the Present and the Future of cannabis law reform be born, thrive and perish in our state even within the last two weeks.
The Past: Robert C Randall was a pioneer in marijuana law reform. In the '70s he fought the Federal Government to establish the right of the sick and injured to use cannabis. His pioneering influence shaped policy across the nation and created the islands of legality that existed in the late '70s and early '80s.
Randall’s efforts helped to create the Investigational New Drug program (IND) that created a marijuana farm at the University of Mississippi (still operational) and allowed some patients to receive cannabis courtesy of the United States Government.
The U.S. Government still manufactures marijuana. There are only five people left in the IND program, still receiving 300 joints each month from the Federal Government shipped in metal tins that have become collector’s items. Two of those five people were in Michigan to honor the memory of Robert C Randall last week, each bringing stories of past successes and promises of more accomplishments to come.
Irv Rosenfeld, the most prominent of these patients, was the
keynote speaker at the dedication of the Robert C Randall Memorial Wellness
Center in Lansing. Elvy Musikka, the other IND patient in attendance, made a
stirring speech (her battle with glaucoma has nearly claimed her sight
completely) as did Randall’s longtime companion and cannabis rights champion, Alice O’Leary. Rosenfeld made several additional stops to promote his new book, while Musikka visited the Kalamazoo Compassion Club and spread cheer with local friends.
But the RCR dedication was not the only reason these giants of cannabis reform law were in Michigan. A particularly nasty Senator has proposed removing glaucoma from the Michigan MMA’s list of illnesses that qualify a patient to use cannabis. This short-sighted (no pun intended) move to step on the 500 glaucoma patients who are already registered with the State, and the
thousands yet to do so, was outed as unnecessary, not supported by science and not in alignment with the intention of the voters. The elders went to the
Capitol and told their stories.
The Present: Renee Emry Wolfe lost her battle with multiple sclerosis and passed from this world last week, just prior to the event described above. Emry Wolfe was a national figure fighting for the rights of cannabis patients; she attained national fame when she famously fired up a joint in the office of Florida Representative McCollum and was arrested by United States Capitol Police. That was 1998. Her federal court case stretched on until 2003. Dr. Dennis Petro was called as an expert witness in neurology and pharmacology, confirming Emry’s multiple sclerosis and supporting her right to use cannabis to treat the painful muscle spasms.
The Court determined that they would not decide on the legitimacy of using marijuana to treat illness and sidestepped the entire issue Emry tried to raise. Her first argument was that the case of People v Randall (the same Robert C mentioned above) which had won in 1976 the right to establish a medical necessity defense. She argued the 9th Amendment to the Constitution protects fundamental rights that are rooted in the traditions of the people, or are implicit in the concept of ordered liberty. Emry and her attorneys also used the Tenth Amendment to determine her right to have the charges vacated. All arguments were rejected and her conviction, upheld.
In the time since, Emry Wolfe participated in marijuana law
reform events throughout the United States but her failing health and limited
budget recently kept her activities close to home, here in Michigan. This last
turn for the worse began during a cannabis law reform event, and her final days
were spent in hospital surrounded by well-wishers. Her passing has been noted
many times, and memorials have been and continue to be held in her honor. I am
proud to have called her a friend.
The Future: Michigan is a state of champions. We have Olympic Gold Medalists and we have Cannabis Cup Gold Medalists, too. High Times Magazine is the nation’s largest and oldest publication dedicated to the culture of cannabis in America. Every year they have several competitions to determine the best medicine and related creations, each based on a different region where medical marijuana is accepted. Last year a competition was held in Detroit; the award for the best use of medicine in a food (called a Medible) was won by Ann Arbor’s Kirk Reid.
Reid has since entered in the same competition in Seattle, Washington. Yeah, he took the Cup again. He’s managed to do the unthinkable: win every competition he’s entered. His creations are visually stimulating, incredibly tasty and they pack a punch of healing power that can halt an attack of restless leg syndrome, help an insomniac fall asleep, or give relief to those suffering from muscle spasms. Reid himself suffers from the same illness that just claimed the life of Emry Wolfe, multiple sclerosis. His motivation to help others eclipses his own personal struggle with a lethal disease.
Reid took another Cup here in Michigan earlier this year, too. The only cup he hasn’t won was the one competition he didn’t enter: the MMM Report Cannabis Cup in the Medibles division was awarded to Christiana Starr Offerman in Ann Arbor several weeks ago. Reid was a judge in that competition. His golden Cups stand as a proof statement to the remainder of the nation — Michigan has the goods to compete with (and beat) the best our nation has to offer. Doubt us? Bring it on.
Michigan has a rich history, a wealth of human resources, and is fortunate to be supported by national interests and accomplished individuals. Our drive is for recovery, our interest is in new technology and investment in the future. Cannabis research to support our Universities, cannabis commerce to support our state budget, and cannabis freedom for our patients and caregivers is a formula for recovery that would keep Michigan on the leading edge of new — new laws, new attitudes, new solutions. That’s how our current Governor got elected — the idea of something NEW. Until we truly embrace new, we share the same prohibition shame as the rest of the nation.