Pubdate: Wed, 12 Mar 2014
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2014 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


LANSING -- The fate of a pair of bills easing Michigan's medical
marijuana law still is uncertain after 90 minutes of testimony Tuesday
from both supporters and opponents of the legislation.

The two House bills would legalize the manufacture and sale of medical
marijuana-infused products -- such as brownies and oils -- and permit
communities to allow and regulate marijuana dispensaries in their towns.

They already have passed the House and are now being considered in the
Senate Government Operations Committee.

The Michigan State Police and local health departments opposed the
bills, saying there is no way to forensically determine the amount of
marijuana in infused products. And health departments said the
dispensaries, which could also act as manufacturers of pot-infused
products, weren't covered by health and safety regulations like other
businesses such as bakeries.

"We have no way to test for presence of THC (the active ingredient in
marijuana) and separate that out from other ingredients," said State
Police Sgt. Amy Dehner. "So if you have 2 pounds of brownies, you have
2 pounds of marijuana."

Supporters, including many medical marijauana cardholders, said the
legislation was necessary for their health and well-being.

Roy Foust of Montrose said his cancer-stricken niece was able to
maintain a quality of life with medical marijuana pills in the last
year of her life.

"Every month, I had to drive the three hours to Southfield to get her
medicine. I drove because I don't know how to grow it," he said. "We
just want to have some control in our communities. We don't want to be
the marijuana capital of the state."

The two bills -- HB 5104 and HB 4271 -- would:

- - Allow for the manufacture and sale of marijuana-infused products,
such as brownies and oils. These products help medical marijuana
users, especially children, who have a hard time smoking the cannabis.

- - Let communities determine whether they want medical marijuana
dispensaries, called provisioning centers, to operate in their
communities, and allow the communities to regulate them. The bill also
requires testing of the cannabis and limits involvement of felons in
the provisioning centers.

The approach favored by the Senate, ultimately passed by the
Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December, was a bill
that would allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana. But the
bill would take effect only if the federal government changed the
designation of marijuana from an illegal controlled substance to a
legal prescription drug. There is no indication that the federal
government is prepared to do that anytime soon.

Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who chairs the
Government Operations Committee, isn't expected to hold another
hearing on the bills for at least a couple of weeks.

Since Michigan voters passed the medical marijuana act in 2008 by a
63%-37% margin, more than 100,000 people have been certified to use
medical marijuana for a variety of ailments. More than 50,000 have
become licensed caregivers, although that number slipped to 27,046 in
the last year.

After the law passed, several dozen dispensaries opened around the
state, but the Court of Appeals ruled that the dispensaries weren't
allowed under the 2008 law. Since then, medical marijuana users and
their caregivers have had to rely on growing their own plants to get
their medicine.
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