This story courtesy of the News-Herald Newspaper
Former attorney general says marijuana laws reflect our society’s view of government
By Dustin Blitchok
For The News-Herald
Michigan’s former attorney general said controversy over the state’s medical marijuana law raises larger philosophical questions for citizens and policymakers.
“What kind of a society are we?” said Mike Cox, now an attorney at the Detroit law firm Dykema Gossett PLLC. “What kind of self-government do we choose for ourselves?”
When asked after his speech to comment on raids by the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office on medical marijuana dispensaries and clinics, Cox said the problem lies with the clarity of the law itself.
“I’m not going to fault any police agency for following up on what they’re told is a violation of the law,” he said. “I think Lansing (the legislature) needs to do more to clean up the implementation (of the law). It’s that simple.”
Attorney Neil Rockind, who has defended medical marijuana patients in Oakland County, said he’s not a fan of Michigan’s sitting attorney general.
“I’m not just not a fan of (Attorney General Bill) Schuette,” he said. “I’m opposed to his approach, his viewpoint, his mindset.”
Rockind said he wishes he had known Schuette “was going to be as harsh to medical marijuana as he is” when running for office. “I think a lot of people people would not have voted for him if they had known that.”
Cox was the keynote speaker at the Wayne State University Law School’s day-long symposium on marijuana reform. “We have little honest dialogue about marijuana,” he said.
Michigan’s medical marijuana law was approved in a voter referendum in 2008 during Cox’s second term as attorney general. At the time, he found the issue “much ado about nothing,” adding, “I was largely indifferent.”
Cox said he came to see that medical marijuana was “more important than I thought,” and was a question of “liberty interest.”
Liberals and conservatives have conflicting ideas about personal freedom, Cox said. “It’s hard to say there’s clean hands on either side of this debate.”
Cox, who sought the Republican nomination for governor in Michigan’s gubernatorial primary in 2010, said, “liberals don’t see the same attack on freedom with ‘Obamacare.’”
Cox was one of several state attorneys general who filed lawsuits against the federal government challenging the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
The criminalization of drugs, however, “changes the cost and benefit equation” of drug use and discourages use by people who follow the law, said Cox. “During the course of the 1980s, there were huge, precipitous drops” in admitted marijuana use on the part of high school seniors, he said.
“Is there a social value in temperance? Don’t the social institutions of government have an obligation to seek the uplift of citizens?” asked Cox.
During a question-and-answer session, Cox said he thought it “a lot more productive for the legislature to address the issue” of interpreting Michigan’s medical marijuana law.
He said law enforcement “just wants to know what the rules are.”
Cox said, to applause, “the reality is, most people don’t smoke weed and (then) beat their wife,” comparing the substance to alcohol. “With that being said, you can’t just say ‘legalize it,’ and let’s all sing ‘Kumbaya.’ There are a lot of practical problems related to that.”
Follow Dustin Blitchok on Twitter @SincerelyDustin.