|Photo: Fox 2|
|First, the state of Michigan said “Trust us, the medical marijuana patient records will be confidential!” But now the Attorney General says he’ll turn ’em over the the Feds with a court order.|
The federal government’s request for patient records from Michigan’s medical marijuana registry will discourage legal use of cannabis, according to Jamie Lowell, founder of the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs.
Lowell knows of a teacher who could use marijuana medicinally, but she is scared of being identified, reports John Agar at The Grand Rapids Press.
“When you get the application, you are under the impression all of the information will remain confidential,” Lowell said Tuesday, outside of U.S. District Court. “People aren’t going to have that peace of mind, and they’ll think twice.”
|Photo: Dearborn Press & Guide|
|Jamie Lowell, Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs: “People aren’t going to have that peace of mind, and they’ll think twice.”|
While backers of Michigan’s medical marijuana law say release of patient records would hurt those who benefit by using cannabis, federal prosecutors claim a request for records is needed to determine if seven people, under investigation in the Lansing area, violated the rules.
U.S. District Magistrate Hugh Brenneman Jr. heard arguments on Tuesday. If the state and federal governments consent, he will issue a written ruling. If not, he will issue a report and recommendation for U.S. District Judge Gordon Quist to make a determination.
Brenneman did not say how long this process will take.
Police discovered growing marijuana plants when they raided an unidentified building last summer. The federal government now wants to know whether the suspects are registered as patients and caregivers because Michigan limits the number of plants and amount of marijuana that can be kept.
Patients who get marijuana from caregivers could also become witnesses if the caregiver faces charges.
Assistant U.S. Attorney John Bruha claimed that the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs, or MACC, has no legal standing to intervene in the case between the state and federal governments. Bruha claimed that the subpoena was legally issued and should be enforced. MACC cannot say if it represents any of the targets of the investigation.
MACC suspects that some of its members are being investigated, according to attorney Jesse Williams, but with no names released, cannot know for certain.
Williams said MACC needs to intervene because Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, an opponent of medical marijuana, isn’t representing state residents. Schuette agreed to turn over the patient records upon a judge’s order.
“MACC certainly has a significant legal interest,” Williams said.
But Bruha claimed that medical marijuana advocates have built a case based only on “rather vague confidentiality provisions” in the law. He claimed the federal government could legally get the information on specified patients through a third party, or the state of Michigan, which he claimed does not violate constitutional protections against self-incrimination because “the target is not being forced or compelled to do anything.”
Possession of marijuana for any purpose is still illegal under federal law, but under the Obama Administration, the Department of Justice currently has the policy of not going after medicinal cannabis patients and providers who are following their state laws.
Brenneman questioned Williams about his position that the patient records should remain private. In particular, he wondered why the Supremacy Clause, which says federal law supersedes state law, wouldn’t be applicable.
“If there’s a conflict (between state and federal laws), isn’t that where the Supremacy Clause says the federal government wins?” Brenneman asked. “If it makes direct conflict with federal law, then don’t you have a Supremacy issue?”