By far, the issue that most caught the attention of readers of TheMorningSun.com in 2011 was that of medical marijuana.
Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in 2008, but as the effects – and vagaries – of the law became clear, the issue itself became controversial.
Business operators Brandon McQueen and Matt Taylor opened the Compassionate Apothecary dispensary in downtown Mt. Pleasant in 2010.
Later renamed simply CA, because Michigan law restricts the use of the term “apothecary” to licensed pharmacies, the dispensary operated quietly on West Michigan Avenue.
But Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick challenged the way CA operated, and sought to have the place shut down as a nuisance.
Isabella County Trial Judge Paul Chamberlain ruled CA wasn’t a nuisance; Burdick appealed.
But while the appeals court was deciding, other dispensaries, many using substantially different methods of distribution from CA, opened their doors.
Dispensaries opened elsewhere in Mt. Pleasant, in Rosebush, Weidman and near Alma.
Union Township developed and passed licensing and zoning laws to regulate the placement and operation of medical marijuana dispensaries.
Isabella County had begun the process of developing its dispensary regulations when the Michigan Court of Appeals released its ruling.
The Court of Appeals ruled that patient-to-patient transfers of medical marijuana, the heart of dispensary operations, weren’t permitted under the Medical Marihuna Act. CA shut down, and across the state, armed with the court opinion, prosecutors began moving to shut down other dispensaries.
McQueen and Taylor have appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court, but so far, there’s no word on whether the state’s highest court will hear the case.
Meanwhile, operators of other dispensaries were having their own problems.
The owner of the Great Lakes Holistic Cannabis Club of Gratiot County was ordered to stand trial on two counts of delivery of marijuana and one count of possession with intent to deliver marijuana.
Todd Edward Prior, 49, of St. Johns is accused of selling marijuana to people for whom he is not a registered caregiver.
The operators of the Weidman dispensary also ran afoul of the law. An Isabella County judge ordered them to stand trial for maintaining a drug house and manufacture of marijuana.
Elijah Lake, 29, and Corinna Neff, 27, are accused of growing medical marijuana in unlocked enclosures at their home.
The two are charged with manufacture of marijuana, a seven-year felony, but Lake could face a harsher sentence if convicted because he has a previous manufacture of marijuana conviction in Macomb County.
Attorney General Bill Schuette also ruled that medical marijuana seized from jail inmates did not have to be returned when the inmates were released from jail.
The ruling came in response to a request originating from Isabella County Sheriff Leo Mioduszewski.
Schuette pledged to crack down on what he called pot “profiteers.” At the end of the year, Schuette moved to close three Lansing-area dispensaries, charging they violated the law.
A few days later, a group in Ann Arbor launched a petition drive aimed at amending the Michigan constitution to make marijuana completely legal for people over 21 in Michigan.