It’s been a year since Michigan voters legalized the use of marijuana for medical purposes.
More than 60% of the state voted in favor of the new law, but do people know what they voted for?
Three little marijuana plants are all that Sylvester Vanderbutts has left. He’s a medical marijuana permit holder and he used to have about 7 times that, but back in September his house was raided by a SWAT team.
“They took everything from me. Everything I had - all my medicine, all my plants, and everything,” he says.
His operation, with moving ultraviolet growing lights, was shutdown and all 23 plants were taken.
“They took all my medicine, what do I have now? Where do I go? There are people out there just like me,” says Vanderbutts.
According to Michigan law, a medical marijuana card holder can have 2.5 ounces of marijuana and 12 plants.
Vanderbutts qualified for a card since the 52-year-old suffers from stage four cancer and smokes about two joints a day.
“Marijuana keeps my stomach calm, keeps my nerves calm, kind of like what their pills do - keeps my lungs clear,” says Vanderbutts.
He admits to breaking the law's limits, but he says he needed plenty of plants on hand as a back-up.
“I don't think I was growing too much because I have to stay in continuous use. I have got to have it all the time because right now, I'm buying it from the streets,” says Vanderbutts.
Cass County Prosecutor Victor Fitz points out research that shows that a person with a permit would have to smoke 50 joints a day for a year to use up their legal allowance.
“I think that most people that voted for this were helping the 80 or 90-year-old grandma or grandfather who was on their last leg with glaucoma, or perhaps needed it for that purpose. I don't think most of the public knew they voted for a law that would allow for a person to have enough marijuana on hand to keep a high school football team high for a year,” says Fitz.
Although marijuana only takes up 20% of Cass County's case load, they could easily have to take on more.
Since April, nearly 8,000 cards in Michigan have been issued in 8 months.
“We have had a handful of cases where individuals who had large amounts of marijuana tried to claim it’s for medical purposes, but our courts in Cass County, as well as around the state, are not buying that argument,” says Fritz.
It’s an argument patients like Vanderbutts are passionate about.
He says nothing else takes away his pain.
Vanderbutts has been attending Cass County commissioner meetings. He is pushing for legislation that will allow permit holders to grow more plants.
He would also like Michigan to legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, similar to California's law.
In the meantime, he's been charged with possession with the intent to deliver and manufacture marijuana, plus maintaining a drug house in Cass County.
If convicted, Vanderbutts faces up to 8 years in prison.
December 3, 2009
Michigan Medical Marijuana Association
Video can be found at Medical Marijuana Still Hot Topic A Year After Legalization
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Medical marijuana still hot topic a year after legalization