The law is the law, it is a simple truth. Can laws be questioned? Certainly. Can they be violated? Not without expecting legal repercussions no matter how ludicrous the situation may seem. That is the story of Delores Saltzman, an 80-year old woman in Michigan that let her medical marijuana card expire and had to spend a night in jail for it.
Michigan is set to vote on allowing adult-use marijuana later this year. In the meantime, if you want to consume cannabis legally in Michigan, you must have a medical marijuana card. Ms. Saltzman suffers from arthritis, diverticulitis and the general aches and pains that come with age. She is comforted by smoking marijuana and has credited it with both saving her life and allowing her to continue one of her favorite hobbies, art.
Why Ms. Saltzman let her medical marijuana card expire is a good question. States like Michigan require that patients have their cards renewed and re-certified semi-annually. The standard cost for renewal with a medical marijuana doctor is $150 and only in extreme circumstances does not require another doctor visit. States’ reasoning for requiring this tends to be that typical medications prescribed by a doctor need to be refilled and patients must be reassessed by a doctor as well.
However, copying the practices of traditional doctor prescriptions may end up being more challenging than an inexperienced consumer may realize. First of all, many medical marijuana patients are accustomed to violating the law through illicit market purchases anyways and the costs to renew may seem unreasonable relatively speaking. The second thing to consider is that medical marijuana tends to be an on demand type of medication for incurable conditions such as chronic pain. It may ultimately be found that once a patient has attained a medical marijuana certification, there is little reason to require that they renew it considering the nature of the medicinal properties of cannabis and the medical conditions the patients suffer with. Also, unlike opioid-based prescriptions, cannabis does not have very strong addictive properties.
Regardless, late in the evening on June 13th, a deputy sheriff came to Ms. Saltzman home looking for her great granddaughter to return a lost cell phone and ID. Upon arriving, the deputy smelled cannabis and inquired of Ms. Saltzman if it was hers and if she was a medical marijuana patient. Ms. Saltzman admitted it was hers and that her medical marijuana card had expired. After helping clean up a little around the house, the deputy handcuffed and brought Ms. Saltzman to the precinct where she spent the night in jail. All charges were dismissed and Ms. Saltzman has now renewed her medical marijuana card.
The legalization of marijuana is having people take a closer look at the injustice of many laws as they pertain to a person’s rights. Why if Delores Saltzman was consuming cannabis in her own home, had received certification from the state of her qualifying conditions for medical cannabis use and was not even the reason for the deputy’s inquiry in the first place, was she forced to endure arrest and spend the night in an uncomfortable jail cell? Was it simply due to a technicality? If a state certifies a patient as qualifying for medical marijuana, should their consumption of cannabis be a legal issue at all anymore?