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Federal court focuses on Michigan’s medical marijuana law

As most of the state was preparing for the blizzard that buried much of the state in snow Tuesday, advocates for the state medical marijuana law’s confidentiality provisions were in federal court in Grand Rapids trying to quash a federal subpoena for medical information in the possession of the Michigan Department of Community Health.

Both state and federal authorities were in court on Tuesday as well as advocates for Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs arguing over whether the MDCH can release information about seven patients/caregivers without violating the law’s confidentiality clause. The Medical Marijuana Act makes it a crime to release information contained in the confidential records turned over to the Michigan Department of Community Health as part of getting a patient card.

Republican Attorney General Bill Schuette has said he will release the information if the federal courts issue an order directing the records be released and preventing officials from being held liable for the release under Michigan law. Schuette opposed the 2008 ballot initiative which created the law.

Jamie Lowell from MACC had this to say to the Grand Rapids Press about the potential impact of releasing confidential medical records.

“When you get the application, you are under the impression all of the information will remain confidential,” he said Tuesday, outside of U.S. District Court. “People aren’t going to have that peace of mind, and they’ll think twice.”

Federal officials, however, say MACC has no business in a legal dispute between the state and federal governments.

[Assistant U.S. Attorney John] Bruha said that medical-marijuana advocates have built a case based on “rather vague confidentiality provisions,” in the law. The federal government could legally obtain the information on specified patients through a third party, or the state, which does not violate constitutional rights against self-incrimination because “the target is not being forced or compelled to do anything,” he said.

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