While there is little question that medical cannabis in Michigan circa 2017 is what Prohibition was in the mid 1930’s, a key to cannabis facilitation is the physician. Lately, the medical professional has become a target for both state and federal prosecution as they are viewed the gateway to helping people obtain their medical marijuana cards.
In an article published by the Detroit Free Press on November 3, 2016 it was stated that one doctor approved nearly 12,000 patients for medical marijuana in Michigan. This was the beginning of an array of national scrutiny for doctors across the state with many that have gone into hiding. If medical cannabis is legal in the state of Michigan, why are medical professions fearing for their license? We have a chance to sit down and speak to legal professionals that have garnered attention as the top in the criminal industry to discuss the issue at length. What they have to say provides a combination of both legal expertise and common sense. The first to weigh in on the issue was Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates.
Grabel has developed a reputation as the top criminal litigator across the state of Michigan. One of the ways that Grabel has developed his stellar reputation is defending those in the cannabis field many of whom include those in the medical profession. Grabel stated, “We have to start with the premise that there are good doctors and bad doctors in the field. There are those that truly want to help patients and those that want to make a quick buck. No matter what category the physician falls into, many seem to forget that they need to establish a ‘bona-fide physician-patient relationship’ and this means meeting the doctor for more than just obtaining your marijuana card. If there is not a relationship established and we are looking at a one-time transaction, everyone, including the patient is vulnerable. The lack of due diligence from even those with the best of intentions can lead to loss of licensure and criminal prosecution. Our job in litigation should be to tutor the physician about the law as opposed to just taking their money. We have an obligation and the reality is that many lawyers are in this field for the wrong reasons. Many of our clients consult with us before they face incarceration. There is no question that prevention is often the best defense.”
Ravi Gurumurthy is an attorney from Cadillac, Michigan. Gurumurthy, whom owns Michigan Law North and works as an Associate Attorney for Scott Grabel weighed in on the subject. Gurumurthy was quoted as saying, “The atmosphere between Lansing and Northern Michigan is vastly different. Mid-Michigan seems to be very opened to the idea of medical cannabis and there are even rumors of recreational marijuana taking center stage with the new laws taking effect in December. On that note, if one drives two hours outside of Lansing there is a whole different dynamic and the physician can be dealing with a different set of rules despite operating under the same statute. This is not a black and white field by any stretch of the imagination.
Matthew McManus, a partner at a law firm in Ann Arbor, Michigan, spoke of issues in the industry as a whole. McManus said, “Many of the doctors and for that matter even the patients that are getting into trouble is because of incompetent counsel. Many cannabis lawyers actually smoke marijuana with their clients. Many of the prosecutions that are incurring is due to pure negligence. Even with the licensure on the horizon, the preparation with obtaining a license is lacking across our field. When the Boston Globe published an article in June of 2016 speaking of cannabis doctors being targeted, it started a floodgate of litigation. The reality is that you should not want a lawyer or doctor that is going to smoke weed with you, you should want someone that is not like the others. If a professional loses their professionalism, we lose our respect. There is no excuse for lack of competency and that is what has started to occur with the medical professional being targeted.”
The future of cannabis is one that is very lucrative but it is filled with pitfalls along the way. The concept for professionalism is at an all-time high. Whether it is fair or not, the physician is held to a higher standard and if strong counsel is not employed, they are going to become even more vulnerable than they already are.
William Amadeo is a partner at Ann Arbor Legal in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to doing civil litigation for his firm, Amadeo is an Associate Attorney for criminal litigation at Grabel and Associates. Amadeo can be reached at: Williamamadeo@Grabellaw.com.