Pubdate: Wed, 06 Nov 2013
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2013 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


Michigan Senate Panel OKs Measure

LANSING -- Medical marijuana users could buy tested and regulated pot 
from pharmacies under a bill passed Tuesday by the Senate Government 
Operations Committee.

Opponents of the bill, however, say it is nothing more than an 
attempt to take business away from the small-scale and home growers.

"The voters decided that medical marijuana was a good thing for the 
state of Michigan, but unfortunately, very few parameters were put 
around that," said Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, 
R-Monroe, a supporter of the bill. "For me, it's about the 
illegitimate use and the potential for not only a bad product, but it 
also getting into the hands of people who are underage."

Former Speaker of the House Chuck Perricone, who now represents 
Prairie Plant Systems, a licensed Canadian marijuana manufacturer, 
said the legislation would give medical marijuana users a better 
option for their cannabis.

"This is nothing more than an option or a choice. This product was 
marketed to the public as medical; let's make it medical," he said. 
"The market for this is virtually untapped. The potential for the 
product is tremendous."

Several dozen activists attending the committee meeting Tuesday said 
they feared the bill was a money grab by large-scale growers and 
pharmacies that want to muscle out home growers.

"We need to grow our own medicine," said Charmie Gholson, founder of 
Michigan Moms United, which fights for legal protections for medical 
marijuana users. "I'm not sure why a Canadian corporation can come in 
and try to buy our Legislature."

The bill would: amend the public health code and classify marijuana 
as a Schedule 2 controlled substance; provide for the licensure and 
regulation of facilities to grow and test pharmaceutical-grade pot, 
and allow those facilities to sell the drug to pharmacies to dispense.

Medical marijuana users would have to get an additional, enhanced 
certificate from a doctor to be able to buy the drug from a pharmacy. 
The bill also would restrict the sale of pharmaceutical-grade 
cannabis to 2 ounces per month, per customer who is at least 18 years old.

The option is needed for medical marijuana users, said state Sen. 
Roger Kahn, R-Saginaw Township, to ensure a safe product free of toxins.

"Marijuana, if it's to be medical marijuana, should be held to the 
standard of medical safety and dosage predictability," he said. "The 
mold issue is serious, the pesticide issue is serious. Both of those 
have the potential to be lethal."

Kahn said the bill would not stop homegrown marijuana by either 
cardholders or caregivers.

"But I don't think that would be a good choice," he said. "The best 
choice would be to get something that is safe and predictable."

Rick Thompson of Americans for Safe Access said the issue of product 
quality isn't real.

"Unregulated cannabis has never killed anyone. There are no 
illnesses," he said. "Those issues are smoke screens."

The legislation, which passed on a 3-0 vote in committee, is 
contingent upon the federal government reclassifying marijuana as a 
Schedule 2 controlled substance, which would give it medical 
legitimacy and would allow pharmacies to dispense it. Marijuana is 
now a Schedule 1 controlled substance, which the federal government 
still considers an illegal substance with no medical benefit.

Perricone said the federal government has taken a number of steps to 
broaden the availability of marijuana, from signaling that it won't 
prosecute in states that have approved medical or recreational 
marijuana use to allowing for broader access to financing for 
marijuana businesses.

But Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said she 
was uncomfortable supporting a bill that has to wait for 
congressional approval. She passed on voting on the bill, which now 
moves to the full Senate, where it is likely to be brought up for a 
vote later this week.

"It's an unusual step for the Legislature to act in case something 
that may or may not happen in the federal government," she said. "The 
attorney general's discretion is something very different from 
congressional approval."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom