GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Even though medical marijuana has been legal in Michigan for 10 years, there are still kinks in the law that can make it difficult for patients to get their hands on it.
The question now is how legalized recreational use will affect access.
About three years ago, Sarah Ackley-Jasick was diagnosed with the intestinal disorder gastroparesis.
"I was unable to eat for about year," she said. "I lost about 100 pounds and I was severely malnourished."
Ackley-Jasick, who had gone to school to become a police officer, had never used marijuana. But with few treatment options, she became desperate.
"Especially after months of not eating, vomiting and not being able to go to things with my children," she said.
Medical marijuana eased her pain and nausea and helped her get back on track. But it's not always easy to get.
"Right now, Michigan has limited even medicinal access," she noted.
She and other medical marijuana patients hope legalization of recreational use will ease access to their medication.
"I beat terminal cancer using cannabis, so I'm a huge advocate," patient Candice Cullen said. "I'm hoping that by having recreational, both the costs will go down (and) there will be more production."
>>Inside woodtv.com: Marijuana in Michigan
But patients are concerned that an experience that's currently like going to a pharmacy and getting medical advice will be much different.
"I hope that it doesn't just bring more pot shops, where its strings away from medicine and into just more of how we have breweries everywhere and things like that," Ackley-Jasick said. "I'd like it to stay where medicine is an option."
"…What happened in Colorado, 90 percent of their medicinal switched to recreational. It's like going into a liquor store," Cullen said, adding she was worried about her privacy.
Medical marijuana businesses have concerns of their own. Paul Farage owns SOHAI in Grand Rapids' Eastown neighborhood, a holistic health shop that issues medical marijuana cards. He expects he'll see a decline in customers who will instead get marijuana recreationally.
"Our business is going to suffer for sure as far as just medical," he said, "but we have a lot of patients over 40 or 50 years old, so we have a fairly large amount of people here for legitimate reasons and they want to stay in the program."
Michigan has a year to work out the licensing details for recreational marijuana shops. Until that happens and applications are approved, there aren't any legal ones in the state.
Patients blame a poor state licensing process for a shortage of tested and tracked marijuana. Now that the industry is welcoming in even more buyers, patients warn there won't be a supply if licensing issues aren't ironed out.
>>Online: Michigan Bureau of Marijuana Regulation