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Clouded Judgement

Robert Downes - May 24th, 2010
Clouded Judgment
Archie Kiel, who was busted for growing too many plants under the Michigan
Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) last August, has become a cause celebre for
marijuana activists across the state. Yet I wonder if any of the
passionate-about-pot crowd ever stops to think about how much damage they
are doing to their own cause by supporting the violation of the law from
the get-go.
And by law, I mean the trust of Michigan voters, which was granted in good
faith in November, 2008 to legalize medical marijuana.
Last July, Northern Express ran an article about Kiel and his efforts to
become a caregiver/supplier for medical marijuana patients under the new
act. The Traverse Narcotics Team (TNT) counted the number of plants in
the photos that ran with the article and noticed that Kiel was apparently
growing more pot than is legally allowed by the MMMA.
Specifically, a caregiver can grow up to 12 plants per medical marijuana
patient. That’s a generous standard, considering that a
hydroponically-grown plant averages four-and-a-half feet in height;
outdoors, a plant can grow several feet taller. Even if a patient were
only smoking the resin-filled buds of a plant, you’d think that it would
take years to smoke 12 full-grown pot plants -- either that or burn your
throat to a cinder.
Yet when TNT raided Kiel’s growing operation, they found 66 plants under
cultivation. Even if one accepts Kiel’s claim that he was entitled to grow
36 plants for himself and two other patients, that’s still 30 plants over
the legal limit.
Many marijuana activists wonder, why is this a problem? Because it’s
breaking a promise and letting the voters down.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (for some reason the State uses the old
beatnik spelling) earned 63% of the popular vote in November, 2008 because
many of us agreed that the compassionate use of medical marijuana could
help relieve the pain and symptoms of cancer treatment, MS, glaucoma and
other illnesses.
No one voted, however, to enact a law with no rules or strings attached,
and betraying the public trust straight out of the gate is not the way to
reassure voters that they have done the right thing.
Consider the damage done when the letter of the law is not followed on a
controversial issue such as this. Doctors, for instance, are a cautious
bunch for good reason, and any taint of being associated with a criminal
enterprise might give any physician pause for recommending medical
marijuana as a treatment. What physician cares to be mixed up in a
situation where a grower isn’t following the law? What physician would
care to find out on the front page of a newspaper or in a TV news report
that his supplier has a ‘side’ business?
Not following the law, or arguing that it’s okay for growers and
“compassionate care-givers” to fudge the rules because their mission
offers them special protection also provides ammunition to those who wish
to rein in the MMMA, as was the case with several attempted amendments in
the State Senate last year.
I wouldn’t wish a prison term on
Archie Kiel, nor even a large fine. One might be willing to concede that
he was idealistic about the new law and got carried away. Good luck.
But he and marijuana advocates should consider what they’re doing to erode
the public trust. If it can be argued that the law is vague enough to
allow growing 30 more plants than is stipulated, then why not 100 more
plants? Why not 10,000? Ultimately, that could send Michigan voters a
message that they made the wrong decision.

Squirmy Situation
Like a monster movie where the creatures keep coming with no end in sight,
we’ve endured a horrifying onslaught of tent worms in Northern Michigan
that seems to have everyone talking.
The best comment I’ve heard on what to do about the plague is from Dennis
Bean-Larson of the Fixed Gear Gallery in TC, who says we should use the
worms to plug the oil leak in in the Gulf -- there are that many of them.
Although we have an article about camping in this issue to coincide with
Memorial Day, anyone with any sense will be sure to wear a floppy hat and
an old shirt you don‘t mind getting smeared with worm guts if you venture
into the woods, because these awful caterpillars are everywhere.
As the DNR reported last year, the summer of 2009 saw a heavy infestation
of tent worms, particularly in the region ranging from Petoskey to TC and
east to Gaylord. The caterpillar infestations run in two-to-five year
cycles, and trees which are attacked for several years in a row may die
off as a result, particularly if they are also hit by an especially hot
summer or cold winter.
Unfortunately, budget cuts in 2009 meant the State didn’t have the funds
to spray a biological insecticide called Bacillus thuringiensis, also
known as Bt. This is a naturally-occurring bacteria that eliminates
caterpillars while not harming people, birds, animals, other insects or
Since the DNR hasn’t stepped forward with a plan to spray the worms this
year either, perhaps it’s time for a coalition of the willing to launch a
fundraiser to pay for spraying the region. Every environmental group,
sportsmans organization, recreational club, chamber of commerce and
business that relies on outdoor tourism has a vested interest in squishing
a creepy-crawly problem that our state government seems unable to address.

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