At the end of Michigan Avenue, a street where slews of dispensary storefronts stand closed and dark, more than 1,000 people toting colorful signs gathered on the steps of the Capitol on Wednesday afternoon to protest a recent Michigan Court of Appeals ruling that made commercial sales of medical marijuana illegal.
Marijuana smoke hung in the air most of the afternoon.
The protest — which was carried out on the first day the Michigan Legislature returned to session for the fall — was the latest collective effort by medical marijuana patients and those in the dispensary industry to show public disapproval for the ruling to the Michigan Supreme Court, which holds the power to overturn the ruling.
There were 25 bus loads of attendees from around the state on the Capitol lawn, said Brad Forrester, one of the founders of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, which helped organize the rally.
But some at the protest said there was little cohesive presence of MSU student medical marijuana patients at the Capitol on Wednesday, although a few independently attended the rally to show their support.
“I didn’t know about (the rally) until today,” said doctoral student Ian Jarvis, who stood on the Capitol’s front steps. “It wasn’t well-advertised (in East Lansing).”
Jarvis, who is not a medical marijuana patient himself,
said he attended to show support from the East Lansing community, adding what an individual consumes should not be the government’s decision.
Michelle McIntyre, who graduated last summer, had a more vested interest in the issue.
She worked at a South Lansing dispensary called Pure Options, which shuttered its doors following the Court of Appeals ruling. For the last few weeks, her job — and the patients the dispensary services — have been hanging in the balance.
“What do we do now?” McIntyre said. “We’re at a loss.”
But Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said the rally reinforced his view that most patients do not have serious medical conditions.
“A number of people who talked to me (on the Capitol lawn) obviously were not sick,” Jones said. “It seems clear to me a large part of the crowd wants recreational marijuana.”
Jones, alongside several other legislators and Attorney General Bill Schuette, unveiled several legislative proposals last month designed to heighten penalties for those who abuse the law.
Jones said Wednesday the original law was intentionally vague, and many Michigan voters who voted for the act in 2008 were misled.
Although recent, the ruling did not have a direct effect on East Lansing, as no dispensaries have opened within the city limits. Many student medical marijuana patients relied on the now-closed Michigan Avenue dispensaries.
As for the lack of Spartan white to compliment the existing green, East Lansing resident Donald Onweller was somewhat puzzled.
“I don’t know why there aren’t many kids out here supporting (the patients’ position),” Onweller said.