Pubdate: Tue, 19 Nov 2013
Source: Metro Times (Detroit, MI)
Copyright: 2013 C.E.G.W./Times-Shamrock
Column: Higher Ground
Author: Larry Gabriel
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)
Bookmark: (Marijuana)
Bookmark: (Decrim/Legalization)


Michigan Fiddles While the West Burns One.

What a waste of the state Legislature's time. SB660 was passed by the
Michigan Senate last week to much posturing and politicking by our
lawmakers, and a fair amount of grousing by marijuana legalization
activists. I'm not sure why any of them bothered.

Senate Bill 660 says that if the federal government ever reschedules
marijuana, then Michigan will allow the Canadian corporation Prairie
Plant Systems (PPS) to run 16 marijuana grows in the state to produce
what they consider certified "pharmaceutical grade" marijuana that
would be sold in drug stores.

The system would not replace the current system of patients and
caregivers - it would be another option for patients. That's if and
when the feds change the scheduling of marijuana from its
classification as a drug with no accepted medical use.

If you've been paying attention, PPS is the same company that floated
the idea of growing marijuana in a former copper mine in the Upper
Peninsula last year. Chuck Perricone, the former GOP Michigan House
speaker, is a lobbyist for PPS, which probably explains how this
legislation showed up in our legislature - and seemed to slide through
like greased lightning. At the same time, HB4271, which would allow
municipalities to decide whether to allow dispensaries within their
borders, and HB4623, which would decriminalize small amounts of
marijuana for recreational use, are stalled in committee. And, as the
federal government has not shown any inclination to reschedule
marijuana, the whole thing seems an exercise in corralling possible
future money from a possible future change in federal policy. It has
no impact on what is going on in the state right now - or anytime in
the foreseeable future.

PPS was formerly the exclusive producer of medical marijuana in
Canada. According to a report on, the company
has a spotty record. It produced only one strain of cannabis with a 7
percent THC level and no reported CBD.

Canadians for Safe Access reported in 2007 that samples of the plant
from a PPS grow in an abandoned copper and zinc mine in Manitoba
showed substantial levels of arsenic and lead. Legislative support for
SB660 was based on the unsubstantiated idea that there is dangerous
marijuana in circulation with all kinds of molds, pesticides and other
toxins - in addition to nonstandard potencies. HB4271 requires testing
for molds and toxins.

Perricone testified that, "Our fundamental premise is that we, in
fact, make it medical - pharmaceutical grade, pure, predictable and
measurable, tested every step of the way. It will be, we believe, a
small segment of the market, but it will be a choice. It will be an

So why did the senate bother with this? It's probably a sign that even
senators in the state realize that medical cannabis is not going away
and interested parties are lining up for the profits. Furthermore, it
all would be pretty much moot if decriminalization were to come to
Michigan. HB4623 would do that. If the legislature doesn't do it, then
activists expect to run a well-financed decriminalization initiative
no later than 2016.

Washington State and Colorado Gear Up

In the meantime, concerned eyes the world over are focusing on
Washington state and Colorado as they set the rules for legal
cannabis. They are busy as bees (or buffalos) in Colorado. I called
the state National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws
(NORML) office and was told that I could get an interview with the
director in the first week of December. I did better in Washington,
talking with Ken Oliver, a member of the national NORML board and
director of the Washington state affiliate. There, the state Liquor
Control Board is in charge of implementing the new system.

"Realistically, I'm excited about it," Oliver says. "People who want
to see prohibition end have a lot of hope. There are not many hiccups.
Sometimes I try to step back but I'm in the forest and can't see
anything but trees; to get perspective is difficult."

Perspective? How about the whole world that wants to see how the first
legal cannabis system since the substance was made illegal in 1937
turns out?

The Washington rules call for 334 retail stores statewide, with 21 in
Seattle, its biggest city. On Monday, Washington began taking
applications for licenses by producers, processors and retailers.
Producers and processors cannot be retailers (and vice versa), and any
single entity can have no more than three retail outlets. Initially,
there will be 21 stores in Seattle and 332 statewide. No retail outlet
can be within 1,000 feet of a school or a park. There are lots of
behind-the-scenes rules regarding growing, testing and security, but
that's insider stuff we don't need to get into. There will be
adjustments once authorities get a sense of how much demand is out
there. Retail packaging is another issue. It has to be child-resistant
and have labeling with warnings and dosage declarations. In
Washington, residents and nonresidents who are 21 and older can buy as
much as 1 ounce at a time.

Colorado's system is different. The first licenses there are going to
existing medical marijuana outlets, which can flip any existing
inventory over to the new system. There, residents can buy as much as
1 ounce, while nonresidents can buy only 1/4 ounce. Also, Colorado
residents can grow as many as six plants in their home for their own
use. In Washington, individuals cannot grow their own. However, the
state's medical marijuana system is still in place, wherein anyone who
has a recommendation from a doctor can grow up to 15 plants for
personal use. There is no state registry there.

Both states are struggling with issues and rules regarding public
consumption. In Washington, it's a civil offense punishable with a
$150 fine, the same as for public consumption of alcohol. In Denver,
where public consumption has become an issue, proposed strict laws
making marijuana illegal in some places are working through the system.

"The people who put this together are coming from the right place,"
Oliver says of the state administrators. "I don't vilify or try to
find things wrong with them. The reason it went to the liquor control
board is it had the infrastructure to do it. I don't think the two
substances should be compared."

The two shouldn't be compared. And technically speaking, we know less
about marijuana than we do about alcohol. So there is plenty to learn
about how this process works. The world is waiting to get schooled.
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MAP posted-by: Matt