Almost six years ago the state of Michigan legalized the use of medical marijuana. This year the Minnesota state legislature will vote on a law that would be very similar to the one Michigan passed. Adam Lorch visited Houghton Michigan, in the Upper Peninsula, where some patients are receiving, and growing, medical marijuana.
"When I was four years old I was diagnosed juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis ."
Nick Schneider has been living with chronic pain for most of his life.
"A lot of times, when it gets really bad I can't get out of bed." says Schneider.
But the drugs doctors gave him to ease the pain had significant side effects.
Schneider explained, "My liver was taking damage and the narcotics just make you feel really depressed."
So Schneider turned to a more controversial medicine and found it eased his debilitating pain without the side effects.
"With marijuana I find that it reduces the pain and inflammation while leaving me able to function." said Schneider.
Schneider moved from Wisconsin to Michigan so he could gain access to medical marijuana at this shop in Houghton. It's a Provisional Health Center that provides medicinal marijuana to patients from around the Upper Peninsula.
Nathan Joyal, owner of the Provisional Health Center said, "We provide medication to licensed patients. The staff here are state licensed caregivers, and so they have a license to dispense the medication and to advise the patients like a doctor or a pharmacist would."
In the couple years the center has been open, Nathan Joyal says he's seen this plant help people with a number of ailments.
"Appetite control, treating anxiety conditions, PTSD, they have back pain, digestive conditions." said Joyal.
Around the country 20 states have legalized medical marijuana and in the next legislative session, Minnesota will be discussing whether to become the 21st. But even in Houghton, where the law has been in effect for more than three years there has been some turmoil between federal and state laws.
"There was a lot of confusion when the law first came out." Joyal states.
At the federal level marijuana is considered a schedule–one drug, which means potential incarceration for possession. But with Michigan's new law you can legally possess and consume marijuana if you have a doctor's prescription.
Lieutenant Nicholas Roberts of the Houghton Police Department said, "Each patient can have 2.5 ounces or up to 12 plants, some people forget or intentionally forget how many they can have and that can get them in trouble."
There has been much concern over abuse of the drug even when it is legalized. Lieutenant Roberts of the Houghton police walks a fine line, knowing Federal laws and State laws contradict each other.
But despite the confusion in laws, legal marijuana has not seemed to add to crime problems.
Lieutenant Roberts told me, "As far as if crime has gone up with illegal use of marijuana, I would have to say it's about the same, this is for the city of Houghton."
Some opponents to legalizing marijuana in Minnesota say they're worried that patients could get hooked on the drug. Joyal says addiction is dependent on who's using.
"As anything else people do, going on roller coasters, watching movies, gambling, anything like that, driving fast, people become psychologically addicted to things and that depends on the individual user, their personality, their self–control." says Joyal.
For some people it's a moral issue, for others, a legal issue, but for people like Schneider it's a quality of life issue.
Schneider told me, "To deny sick people the ability to get well on a natural medicine.... just for that I thinks its criminal."
Illinois and New Hampshire are the most recent states to allow the use of medical marijuana.
Adam Lorch Reporting