published November 20, 2011 in the Lansing State Journal
Attorney General’s Opinions are generated as a response to questions posed to the AG’s office. Not all questions become opinions, and not all opinions start out as questions.
Former state Attorney General Mike Cox averaged 17 opinions per year during his eight-year run in the office. Jennifer Granholm issued 25 in her final year as AG but that was nothing compared to Frank Kelly, who managed to rack up more than 200 opinions published in 1980.
Since April 4, 2009, the first day the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMA) officially began accepting applications, Cox issued 30 Opinions, numbered 7228-7257, and only one of them dealt with the MMA.
The lone exception, AG 7250, dealt with the legitimacy of the state of Michigan subcontracting out the work involved with administering the act.
In the 11 months since taking office, Bill Schuette has answered only five questions in the form of opinions, of which 60 percent are on the subject of the MMA.
Opinion 7259 prohibited the collective growing of plants and was issued June 28. Sept. 16 brought 7261, which allows businesses, landlords and others to ban smoking or growing cannabis within their property. On Nov. 10, Schuette issued Opinion 7262 stating federal law dictates any cannabis seized by law enforcement becomes confiscated by law enforcement and can never be returned to the rightful owner regardless of circumstance.
Not only has Schuette issued the lowest number of opinions in any calendar year since online records are available (1963) he also was the laziest filer, with his first effort carrying the May 6, 2011 date stamp.
On what issue has the attorney general been spending his time? Eradicating 500 small, family run businesses across Michigan.
A legal medical marijuana distribution industry that took Lansing two years to create vanished in a wave of Schuette-inspired cease-and-desist orders.
The Capital City is returning nearly 40 checks to prospective medical marijuana business owners who are ready, willing and able to fill vacant buildings and erase the blight from storefronts and properties.
At an average loss of $1,100 per check, the citizens of Lansing are giving back $43,000 – approximately what a policeman makes. Or a teacher. Or a fireman.
The printed literature available at the attorney general’s recent symposium series, “Clearing the Air: Implementing and Enforcing Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Law,” contains 15 pages of Schuette’s suggested legislative changes to the MMA. It also includes an elementary fill-in-the-blank style Public Nuisance lawsuit template to encourage communities across Michigan to remove their medical marijuana-related businesses.
His need for local action sheds a light on the truth: if existing state law prohibited these businesses from operating, Schuette would do the removing himself.
Despite many public statements that his job is to enforce the law as written, the AG has spent considerable time trying to change the law through interpretation – and now, legislation – from behind an iron curtain. This puppeteer political strategy is long on opinion and short on responsibility. Or, maybe it’s short on responsibility and short on opinion, too.