Medical Pot Users Say Their Needs Are Ignored as Dispensaries Closed

Michael McShane, 51, of Ferndale is growing his own pot to relieve pain caused by cancer. (William Archie - Detroit Free Press)Michael McShane, 51, of Ferndale is growing his own pot to relieve pain caused by cancer. (William Archie – Detroit Free Press)For more than a year, Michael McShane counted on Big Daddy’s marijuana dispensary in Oak Park to provide the drug he uses for his cancer, back pain and immune illness.

This week, the dispensary closed after its owner, the owner’s daughter and their two associates were charged with drug possession. The charges came a week after Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette declared dispensaries illegal in Michigan.

“I’m like a whole lot of patients. We don’t know where we’re going to turn,” said McShane, 51, of Ferndale.

With most dispensaries closed and independent providers fearing arrest, thousands of medical marijuana users said they must drive farther to the few dispensaries that quietly stayed open, or take chances with drug dealers, McShane said.

“What we call the reggies — the regular stuff sold on the street — you can’t trust it and you can’t trust the people selling it,” he said.

Prosecutor says marijuana law not meant for profit
Attorneys representing owners of Michigan medical pot dispensaries said they might legally reopen with nonprofit business models. But the Oakland County Prosecutor’s Office said Friday that commercial outlets of any kind are outside the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

The issue could take years to resolve, leaving many state-approved users unable to get the drug while putting dispensary owners in legal limbo.

The Bay Area Herbal Clinic in Pinconning closed immediately after news broke of the Aug. 23 appeals court ruling making the business illegal, said owner Wes Crumby.

“We wanted to stay open, but I’m just not going to risk that,” Crumby said Friday. He also owns an automotive software company and said he feared losing that business if his dispensary were raided by police.

“I had 50 patients in here today asking me, ‘What am I going to do?’ ” he said. “Most of our customers were over 50 years old. We got them off the Oxycontin, the Vicodin, the sleeping pills.”

Now, his patients told him, they “have their nephews going out to do dope deals behind Dumpsters,” Crumby said.

Royal Oak attorney Jim Rasor said his law firm represents a dozen dispensaries.

“If you take away all the posturing, what the state and the police are doing by closing these dispensaries is pushing medical marijuana transactions into alleys,” Rasor said Friday.

“That means that organized crime profits,” he said.

But Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette said last week that the state law on medical marijuana was “narrowly focused” and meant to operate without dispensaries. And Oakland County Prosecutor Jessica Cooper said Friday that dispensaries were illegal because the law “was designed for compassion … not for profiteers to make money.”

Former Bay Area Herbal Clinic client Larry Myers said the lack of a legal place to obtain marijuana is “weighing on my mind, and it’s weighing on a lot of people’s minds.” Myers, 58, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 1980 and said the clinic provided him with free marijuana because his income is low.

“I can’t grow it myself because I can’t get out of this chair,” said Myers, who has difficulty walking because of the disease.

John Begley of Hazel Park used several dispensaries in the last year, only to see each closed by law enforcement. Begley, 30, said the one he most recently used was Big Daddy’s in Oak Park. Its owner was arrested Wednesday.

Begley has rheumatoid arthritis and a severed shoulder nerve from a work injury, causing chronic pain, but he also has a blood disorder called Type 3 hemophilia, which means that over-the-counter painkillers are “very dangerous for me,” he said.

“The place I live at — it’s not an option for me to grow (marijuana). I live with family, and they’re petrified that Oakland County will kick the door in over a weed,” Begley said Friday.

The Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team has been among the state’s most aggressive in prosecutions of dispensary operators.

Great Lakes Holistics near Mt. Pleasant closed its doors, leaving Millie Leachman without a source for the marijuana-laced candies and salve she bought there every two weeks for $25, she said.

Leachman, 44, who lives near Alma, said she had hoped to return soon to 12-hour shifts as a KFC restaurant manager.

“I’m sitting home in a neck brace because I ran out” of marijuana, Leachman said. “Where am I supposed to get this now?”

– Article originally from Detroit Free Press.