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Decision to release medical marijuana records now in hands of judge

(photo by Steve Carmody/Michigan Radio)

A federal judge in Grand Rapids heard arguments Tuesday in a case involving who has access to patient information under Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act.

A special agent with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration wants the medical marijuana records of seven individuals from the Lansing area he says is relevant to a drug case. U.S. Attorney John Bruha told the judge today the DEA will not prosecute people operating legally under the state’s law. That’s because U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder issued a policy that his department would not go after people operating under state laws. So, Bruha argued at the hearing today, it’s in the best interest of the 7 people involved to prove they’re registered and complying with state law.

But attorney John Targowski wonders if the DEA is simply fishing for evidence. He representsCannabis Patients United, a non-profit lobbying group of medical marijuana supporters. Targowski says the DEA has the resources, and plenty of other ways to get information in a criminal investigation.

“Can we get people doing some surveillance? Some undercover buys? I mean I represent clients that are charged under the federal control substance act in this building every month. They are caught through various means, none of which involve subpoenaing Department of Community Health Records.”

It’s a state crime for anyone to disclose the personal information of registered patients or caregivers. Michigan’s attorney general says the state will turn over the records if the judge orders it and if the federal government grants the state employees who disclose the records immunity from prosecution.

Attorney Jesse Williams represents the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers. MACC hopes the judge will grant them standing in the case, which would allow them to fight the DEA.

“You know this is bigger than a marijuana bust. We’re talking about people’s privacies their rights being disclosed. And I really personally feel that this is all done in fear tactics to suppress what the voters voted in.”

Williams and Targowski say the court battle is making potential patients nervous to register with the state. 

Attorneys for the state and federal governments declined to comment.

It’s unclear when the judge will issue his opinion.

Lindsey Smith helps lead the station'sAmplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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