By Rick Coates
The Michigan Medical Act passed by voters in 2008 seems to have created more questions than answers. Recent raids on compassionate care centers, medical marijuana operations and caregiver homes by law enforcement agencies have added to the confusion.
Now there is a Michigan House bill in committee proposing the ban of medical marijuana clubs and bars where those who are legal to medicate gather. Plus, medical marijuana patients remain confused as to where they may legally medicate away from their homes. Some patients have been fired by employers who view any use of marijuana as drug use, even if a doctor gives the employee a medical marijuana referral.
And some Northern Michigan residents who have asked their physicians for medical marijuana referrals have been denied by doctors who have responded that they have been advised not to make such referrals.
Certainly, there are a lot of gray areas in this act, said Derek Norman, CEO and founder of the Medical Marijuana Academy. We hope to answer as many questions as possible this weekend as we bring the Academy to Traverse City.
Based in Commerce Township, the Medical Marijuana Academy (MMA) maintains a campus with labs and research facilities along with classrooms where they offer a certification program for caregivers and teach the ins and outs of the medical marijuana business. They are taking their classroom on the road this weekend (Sept. 10-12) for three days of instruction at the Grand Traverse Resort; only a few seats remained at publication time.
There are a lot of complexities to this, especially since this is new here in Michigan, said Norman. First of all, this is a business and we go into detail about setting it up as a business. We have an attorney that will present how to legally establish your business. We cover every aspect of how this industry works.
The Medical Marijuana Academy has been advertising that one can earn up to $120,000 annually, and on average, a person can earn around $60,000.
Certainly we know of at least one person earning the $120,000 figure, said Todd Alton, botanist for the MM. There are several career opportunities in this industry besides being a caregiver, and this weekend will help prepare you for them such as patient relations, garden workers, baker and administrative positions.
RULES & REGS
In Michigan, a caregiver must be at least 21 years old and may not have a drug related felony on their record. Alton says, to attend these classes you only need to be 18 years old. The cost for the weekend is $495 and includes lessons on how to grow plants, market yourself and how to establish your business.
We will be bringing our full team including a physician for patient certification, said Norman.
Some have questioned the fee, including Bob Heflin of the Grand Traverse Chapter of NORML.
I see the pros and cons of this weekend, certainly the opportunity to network with others makes it a valuable experience, said Heflin. But you can buy a book for a lot less and learn this.
The MMA disagrees with Heflins perspective.
What you are paying for is the advice of several experts who have years of experience in this industry. This is not something you can get from a book, said Alton. This business is more than just growing marijuana and selling it to patients. You have to pay taxes and do everything else that goes along with operating a business. You have to understand how to care for patients and the list goes on.
As for the question as to where one is allowed to medicate with medical marijuana, no one seems to have a consistent answer, from local law enforcement agencies to the patients themselves.
Yes this is frustrating, the act states in private -- but is a business that you own considered to be private? No one is able to answer that, said Norman. The challenge is that people look at this as a drug versus the medicinal aspect of marijuana that has been proven to help so many where other drugs have failed.
Norman continues with his frustration.
Now they are proposing eliminating clubs for medical marijuana patients. No one is talking about restricting where a person who has been prescribed a narcotic is allowed to use that. Our focus is not on the politics but in teaching good business practices along with industry-specific knowledge. Our goals is to help you achieve a return on your investment responsibly, legally and ethically.
Norman and his colleagues have also been generous in helping those in need. Earlier in the spring when a Battle Creek man with brain cancer lost his job at Walmart, the MMA provided him with a $2,500 scholarship package to attend the Academy at no cost and have his accommodations, transportation and meals taken care of.
We have awarded a similar type of scholarship for someone in Northern Michigan, said Norman. We believe that education is key to being successful in this business; we are constantly educating ourselves. What you have to remember is this is not a business about getting people high, this is about helping people get well, about helping people who have some very severe medical difficulties to manage and cope with daily living.
The success of pre-registration for this first MMA weekend has led to adding another session the weekend of December 10. To learn more about this weekends Medical Marijuana Academy Marijuana 101 24 Hour Class at the Grand Traverse Resort, check out www.medicalmarijuanaacademy.com or call them directly at 888-487-0005.