The front lines of the medical marijuana fight

daveSIDNEY TWP, Mich. – “The governor is gonna get this bill – I’m pretty sure.”

Those are the words of David Overholt.

He’s in charge of Mid-Michigan Compassion Club, a network of medical marijuana caregivers.

He’s also become somewhat of a lobbyist as state lawmakers consider changes to Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

While the measures fall far short of legalization, the bills would remove some red tape caregivers say is hurting their business and their patients.

In addition to his work as a caregiver, Overholt is a military veteran and a soybean and corn farmer for 20 years on his land in rural Montcalm County.

He also grows medical marijuana, which he was turned on to after becoming addicted to pain pills.big plant cage

Overholt suffers from chronic back pain, so he is both a caregiver and a patient.

It’s not just those suffering chronic pain, minors – even children – are seeing the benefits.

“We have a handful, about 10 minor patients; four of them are under 5 years old,” said Paul Farage, operations director with the Society of Healing Arts Institute. “These are kids who have suffered from either epilepsy or a condition in which the drugs they are taking are so harmful they are causing more harm to the child than the condition itself.”

On Thursday, Overholt invited FOX 17 to see his indoor and outdoor grow operations in Sidney Township where he can grow up to 72 plants: 12 for each of his five patients and 12 for himself.

Overholt has been the primary face of the dispensary movement in Michigan.

In March of 2013, Overholt’s Mid-Michigan Compassion Club in Grand Rapids was raided by police and later shutdown.

grow room_1He is still fighting the issue in court.

“I’ve had to take and appeal that to the Supreme Court and ask the Supreme Court to kick it back to the Appeals Court and make them hear it,” said Overholt. “What I would prefer is just send it back to Grand Rapids.”

“At any time you’re licensed for 72 plants, you can have them on possession at any time, as long as you’re with cards and legal patients by the state of Michigan,” Overholt said. “Any numbers above, you break the law.”

As law stands today, Overholt can only provide pot pills and smokeable marijuana to his patients. That’s among the reasons why he says it’s so important to legalize edibles.

“For one thing, it will put prospective oils and baked good into play,” said Overholt. “You will now be allowed to have and possess brownies and candy and the basic oil itself.”

“It will give municipalities and townships and cities the privilege of allowing, or not allowing, a dispensary,” Overholt said.

Overholt’s personal grow operation is a massive and expensive undertaking.

Just to get a grow room up and running costs about $15,000 for the lighting, watering and ventilation systems.

“Basically, the people I’m dealing with are all sick people,” Overholt explained. “So, if the insurance companies aren’t allowing payment in a normal manner, like in pharmacies, this burden falls on the patient. I have to get as efficient as I can to bring down my costs in order to make this work for everybody.”electric bill

It’s not uncommon for Overholt to get an electric bill for $2,000, or more. He also spends about $900 for three months-worth of fertilizers and organic growing aids, and another $2,000 for new soil each year. You can also add another $3,000 per month in labor costs.

Here’s what state lawmakers are now considering:

One bill would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to set up shop in municipalities that allow them, but it does put restrictions in place:

  1. Dispensaries could not be within 1,000 feet of a school
  2. They can’t sell marijuana that hasn’t been tested for mold and other impurities
  3. Dispensaries wouldn’t be allowed to hire anyone 21-years of age or younger
  4. They also could not hire someone who has a felony conviction for illegal drugs within the past 10 years.
  5. The dispensaries cannot share a space with a physician or allow doctors to advertise in the shop.

A second measure would allow medical pot patients to use edibles, meaning they would not have to smoke marijuana to feel its effects.

It also requires pot products be specifically labeled.

These measures have already passed the state House and are now heading to the Senate floor where they could be amended.

Back in Montcalm County, that has caregivers and pot activists like Overholt and others lobbying lawmakers about pot’s potential benefits.interview Paul

“We had one woman crying, saying she wishes her daughter would die, just so she doesn’t have to suffer anymore,” said Farage. “In every single case of these kids, they have gone through the system, seen their doctors and come with a book of medical records – literally – and this is their last option.”

Overholt is getting ready to welcome lawmakers and their aides from across Michigan on Sept. 6 to his farm to get a firsthand look at his operation and to explain to them the benefits of legal dispensaries and edible medical marijuana.fire truck

The community of Sheridan is already seeing some benefits to the medical marijuana industry. Overholt brought together members of the community, raising more than $20,000 to purchase a truck for the local fire department.

10 comments

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    • William Clark

      Thanks for the chance to comment on this story.

      I’m convinced that prohibition of marijuana is a premise built on a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on our highways alone. In November of 2011 a study at the University of Colorado found that, in the thirteen states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent—now nearly ten percent in Michigan–while sales of beer went flat by five percent. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it. Ambitious, unprincipled, profit-driven undertakers might be tempted too.



      Actually, most people–and particularly patients who medicate with marijuana–use it to replace prescription drugs or alcohol.



      I recently reviewed the Federal Census stats on yearly driving fatalities state
by state, from 1990 to 2009. All states, ‘legal’ or not, have seen their death
 rates drop, but on average, those with medical laws posted declines 12% larger
 than the non-medical states. Public Safety Announcements and vehicles with
 airbags must have helped as well, consistently throughout the country, without 
affecting the disproportion between the ‘legal states’ and those ‘not yet, in
2009′.

      

In 2012 a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote cited statistics revealing that 
marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only 
significant effect that marijuana has on operating on a motor vehicle is slower
 driving”, which “is arguably a positive thing”. Despite occasional accidents, eagerly reported by police-blotter ‘journalists’ as ‘marijuana-related’, a mix of substances was often involved. Alcohol, most likely, and/or prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, meth, cocaine, heroin, and a trace of the marijuana passed at a party last week. However, on the whole, as revealed in big-time, insurance-industry stats, within the broad swath of mature, experienced consumers, slower and more cautious driving shows up in significant numbers. Legalization should improve those numbers further.

      

Marijuana has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!’”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana is a neuro-protectant which actually encourages brain-cell growth. Research in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries has discovered that it has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.



      Drugs are man-made, cooked up in labs, for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them. They are often useful, but typically come with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm. ‘The works of Man are flawed.’



      Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin, and “kaneh bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair. The very name, “Christ” translates as “the anointed one”. Well then, anointed with what? It’s a fair question. And it wasn’t holy water, friends. Holy water came into wide use in the Middle Ages. In Biblical 
times it was used by a few tribes of Greek pagans. But Christ was neither Greek 
nor pagan.

      

Medicinal oil, for the Prince of Peace. A formula from the Biblical era has been 
rediscovered. It specifies a strong dose of oil from kaneh bosom, ‘the fragrant 
cane’ of a dozen uses: ink, paper, rope, nutrition. . . . It was clothing on their backs and incense in their temples. And a ‘skinful’ of medicinal oil could certainly calm one’s nerves, imparting a sense of benevolence and connection with all living things. No wonder that the ‘anointed one’ could gain a spark, an insight, a sense of the divine, and the confidence to convey those feelings to friends and neighbors.

      

I am appalled at the number of ‘Christian’ politicians, prosecutors, and police who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but cannot or will not face the scientific or the historical truths about cannabis, Medicinal Herb Number One, safe and effective for thousands of years, and celebrated by most of the world’s major religions.

    • Brian Kelly

      When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

      Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

      Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

      Support Medical Marijuana Now!

      “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

      “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

      “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

      “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

      “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

      “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

      “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003

  • Brian Kelly

    Fear of Medical Marijuana Legalization is unfounded. Not based on any science or fact whatsoever.

    So please, all prohibitionists, we beg you, give your scare tactics, “Conspiracy Theories” and “Doomsday Scenarios” over the inevitable Legalization of Medical Marijuana a rest. Nobody is buying them anymore these days. Okay?

    Furthermore, if all prohibitionists get when they look into that nice, big and shiny crystal ball of theirs, while wondering about the future of Medical Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, is horror, doom, and despair, well then I suggest they return that thing as quickly as possible and reclaim the money they shelled out for it, since it’s obviously defective.

    The prohibition of marijuana has not decreased the supply nor the demand for marijuana at all. Not one single iota, and it never will. Just a huge and complete waste of our tax dollars to continue criminalizing citizens for choosing a natural, non-toxic, relatively benign plant proven to be much safer than alcohol and definitely so much less dangerous than daily handfuls of deadly, toxic, man-made, highly addictive, narcotic pain pills and other pharmaceuticals .

    If prohibitionists are going to take it upon themselves to worry about “saving us all” from ourselves, then they need to start with the drug that causes more death and destruction than every other drug in the world COMBINED, which is alcohol!

    Why do prohibitionists feel the continued need to vilify and demonize marijuana when they could more wisely focus their efforts on a real, proven killer, alcohol, which again causes more destruction, violence, and death than all other drugs, COMBINED?

    Prohibitionists really should get their priorities straight and or practice a little live and let live. They’ll live longer, happier, and healthier, with a lot less stress if they refrain from being bent on trying to control others through Draconian Marijuana Laws.

  • James Novak

    Patients MUST have safe access to Edibles, AND OIL! The RSO (Rick Simpson Oil) made from Food Grade Everclear and purged of solvent properly is one of the safest and most potent forms of this medicine (Cannabis). It should be allowed by officials as a legal treatment method. HERE ARE THE FACTS – The Politicians LOSE court cases over MMJ in every State because it always comes back that THEY ARE NOT DOCTORS & HAVE NO RIGHT TO TELL YOU WHAT TO PUT IN YOUR BODY! The Patents & the Research prove the safety and effectiveness of Cannabis to treat over 4 categories of disease, kill cancer, shrink tumors, and stop seizures. See the Patents here –
    hemp-solutions .org /patents
    We must be allowed to possess and use this healing medicine, whether its in raw form or not. The Patents prove the healing power and are all the evidence anyone should ever need to prove that Cannabis is extremely beneficial to Human Health. The Politicians are NOT doctors…and they obviously don’t understand the research fully. Otherwise they would never stand in the way of another Humans health and block such a beneficial plant who’s molecules are Patented by our own Government as “Antioxidants & Neuroprotectants”!
    See the US GOV PATENT HERE – http://www.google.com/patents/US6630507

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