Patients and Caregivers Pin Hopes on Municipalities to Act on Weed Law

Finally, Jody Smedley can declare herself free from her former diet of dangerous prescription opioids. Not long ago, she was swallowing Norco to relieve the severe pain her nerve and muscle-wasting disease was causing her. She also needed Xanax before bed to help her get some sleep. Although the prescriptions helped some, Smedley still found herself vomiting each morning, often violently.

After much suffering, a frustrated Smedley, 47, decided to get a medical marijuana card to see whether cannabis treatment could help her. It was not long before she understood how specific strains could effectively relieve both the vomiting and pain. Today, Smedley says, “I am really proud to say that I am not on opiates or Xanax, I am not on either one. My doctor is so proud of me and I am proud of myself.”

Smedley concluded her experience with yet more anecdotal evidence of marijuana’s benefits, declaring, “I can honestly say that marijuana helped me get off my pain pills and my sleeping pills.” Over a year ago, Smedley walked into nearby Interlochen Alternative Health to pick up the medical strains that were helping her pain and insomnia, but after forcible shutdown of the dispensary, she faces new struggles.

Along with seven other medical marijuana businesses in Grand Traverse County, law enforcement officials raided Interlochen Alternative Health and shut it down on October 4. Bob Cooney, County Prosecutor, said that he was the one to authorize these actions after receiving a “valid” complaint accusing the dispensaries of illegal operations.

According to Cooney, a notice sent out by the state’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office warned existing medical cannabis facilities to shut their doors before December 15, which is when officials from LARA will begin approving license applications for local facilities under the new Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, which is why he authorized the actions of law enforcement.

Thus far, there are no filed charges anywhere. Last week, LARA officials reversed the decision to permit locally approved medical pot businesses to continue operating during the licensing process, a move announced on Wednesday in a press release. Cooney explained that LARA’s earlier directive was a factor he considered when initiating last month’s raids, but he insisted the facilities were all violating the law.

Stephen Ezell, owner of Interlochen Alternative Health, hopes to submit a license application and reopen as soon as possible. However, his application hinges on whether officials from Green Lake Township opt into the new law. Township officials say that, as of yet, that decision remains unmade. Until December 15, it is unlikely that anyone will make a concrete decision.

According to Supervisor Marvin Radtke, officials are still receiving and reviewing public comments. Planning commissioners are still analyzing which zoning districts would be most suited to operational marijuana facilities. Radtke doubts strongly that anyone will make a decision to opt in or opt out before December 15, saying, “At this point in time, I would find it unlikely.”

According to village President Dave McGough, other municipalities have yet to decide if they will opt in or out, including Fife Lake. Officials in Traverse City are busy researching the issue. They will continue to do so, city Manager Marty Colburn said. Meanwhile, Ezell is still attending meetings and lobbying officials to make a decision.

Ezell opened the doors of Interlochen Alternative Health back in May 2013. Over the last several months, officials have been positioning themselves for a successful license application, assuming operations would be permissible, he explained. Since its closure, the frustration has been endless, Ezell says, particularly now it is becoming clear that officials are behind schedule.

It certainly appears that it may still take township officials weeks before they will be able to authorize any medical marijuana dispensary to conduct its business legally, and until then, all Ezell can do is reiterate that, “We are very remorseful that we cannot help our patients.” Because of the closure, Smedley now has to find somewhere else to get the medicine she so desperately needs.

In the meantime, and in the absence of access to marijuana, Smedley fights daily battles against returning to Norco and Xanax, and she admits that it is becoming increasingly challenging. “I do not understand why it is so hard to get your medicine. Why are they making it so hard?” Smedley asks. “They definitely do not make it hard to get your opiates.”


Geez, there seem to be a lot of people named Ann who write marijuana blogs. Well, that’s my name too, and when I asked my mom why she decided to give me such a mundane label she explained that the name Ann meant God has favored me. My name took on a whole new significance and I no longer thought it boring. And God has favored me – he gave me the gift of the gab and he smiled his approval when I decided to move to San Francisco. I love this city, I love the people, and most of all I love writing about marijuana.

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