Pubdate: Mon, 16 Feb 2015
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2015 The Detroit News
Author: Gary Heinlein


Lansing - Four state lawmakers are reviving bills to legalize an 
array of medical marijuana products and dispensaries where they'd be 
sold after last year's effort was shot down by last-minute criticism 
from law enforcement and health groups.

Republican Rep. Mike Callton of Nashville, main sponsor of one of the 
bills, argues Michigan needs clear laws and regulations allowing 
"provisioning centers" where patients legally get marijuana in 
various forms suited to their needs.

Last year's bills died during the two-week lame-duck legislative 
session in December as opponents said police and public health 
agencies hadn't been allowed to weigh in and saw problems with what 
was proposed. The sponsors promise to remedy any shortcomings this time around.

Callton, a chiropractor by profession, said two related bills with 
House and Senate sponsors aim to "establish safe access for patients 
and allow for the use of alternative forms of marijuana, such as 
medibles and topicals."

His provisioning center bill calls for law enforcement access to make 
sure laws are being followed, at least annual health inspections, 
mandated laboratory certification that the products on sale are safe 
and a set of rules developed by the state's Licensing and Regulatory 
Affairs Department. The second measure would clarify that smokable 
marijuana isn't the only form of it that's legal.

The other bill sponsors are Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, RAlto, Sen. 
David Knezek, DDearborn Heights, and Sen. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake.

Their legislation seeks to clarify a shadowy area of state law so 
patients know what forms of the marijuana they can buy that 63 
percent of state voters approved for medicinal use in 2008.

Affected users include Lansing resident Steve Green, who takes 
capsules containing a liquid form of cannabis to control epilepsy, 
and Ida Chinonis of Grand Blanc, who has found marijuana oil best 
controls seizures her 6-year-old daughter suffers as a result of a 
genetic disorder.

In Michigan, the number of people obtaining state cards that permit 
medical marijuana use has declined from 119,470 to 96,408 during the 
last three years, and Green says it's at least partly because they 
fear state registration brings them added scrutiny or see no benefit from it.

"I've had people ask me after all you've been through, why do you 
renew your card?" said Green, who faced charges and temporarily lost 
custody of his daughter over medical marijuana use by him and his wife, Maria.

In 2013, police and Children's Protective Services took their 
6-month-old daughter, Bree, from their home for six weeks. The child 
ultimately was returned to them, and criminal charges against Green 
were dropped.

Green, who said his "eye-opening experience" has caused him to pay 
attention to marijuana issues, said there are misconceptions about 
the provisioning centers Callton wants to make legal.

"We would think it's college kids going to these stores, when it's 
mostly those who haven't acquired marijuana in the last five years," he said.

"College kids can get marijuana everywhere they go. ... But somebody 
who's never done it, who just got this (doctor's) recommendation, 
they've got nowhere to go, and they're not interested in meeting 
these new people (growers)."

Facing resistance

But the legislation faces skepticism, if not opposition, from 
Attorney General Bill Schuette and organizations such as the Michigan 
Sheriffs' Association and Michigan Association for Local Public Health.

When the Michigan Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that marijuana 
dispensaries aren't legal under current state law, Schuette said he 
accepted it as the final word on the issue.

"We all know people who have or are suffering from great pain, but at 
the same time we must also keep drugs out of kids' hands," Schuette 
said in a statement regarding the new proposals. "The Legislature is 
doing its job to look at the huge holes in the original law, and we 
will monitor the legislation as it progresses."

Although 17 of the 32 states with medical marijuana laws also permit 
dispensaries, the Sheriffs' Association and Michigan Association of 
Chiefs of Police have had philosophical objections that might be 
difficult to resolve.

Last year's bills, for example, would have allowed dispensaries to 
sell excess marijuana patients grow for their own use or that 
registered caregivers grow to supply patients. The law enforcement 
groups said that would have introduced a profit motive and 
"financially incentivize" people to get state cards that allow them 
to grow and use medical marijuana.

Amore basic issue is the added work for law officers who would have 
to watch dispensaries to ensure they sold only state-allowed 
quantities and only to medical marijuana card holders.

Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski said officers want clarity.

"Our mission is simple," Yankowski said. "We want to keep our 
communities safe, and we want to protect the constitutional rights of 
our citizens."

The Association for Local Public Health, representing 45 local health 
departments, says it's unclear whether health agencies or the state 
Agriculture Department, which inspects bakeries, would monitor 
product handling conditions and practices at dispensaries.

Agencies concerned

The health agencies also are worried about absorbing added duties 
when Gov. Rick Snyder is proposing a $1.5 million cut in the state 
budget for their work next year, said association executive director 
Megan Swain.

The Supreme Court decision hasn't entirely stopped people from 
opening dispensaries, especially in some of the 13 Michigan cities 
whose residents now have approved local ordinances allowing 
recreational marijuana use.

According to the 2014 Marijuana Business Factbook, there are 180 
dispensaries in Detroit alone. City Council member James Tate said 
rules and regulations are needed to govern those places.

And Grand Blanc's Chinonis said patients like her daughter need "a 
safe, legal and licensed location to obtain medical marijuana" and a 
law making it clear that alternative ways of taking marijuana are legal.

Chinonis, who has given her 6-year-old daughter, Bella, three daily 
oral doses of marijuana oil for about a month, said the drug has 
shortened the duration of the child's "life-threatening seizures" 
from 10 minutes to 10 seconds. She said Bella now is more alert and 
responsive to learning.

Lyons, who is sponsoring a bill permitting alternative forms of 
marijuana, said she would do exactly what Chinonis is doing if her 
child had a serious medical condition best controlled by cannabis.

'We have to get this fixed'

But court decisions and complexities of the current law, Lyons said, 
are leading to "medical injustices, social injustices and health 
policy issues."

"We have to get this fixed," she added. "We are prosecuting patients, 
and we're prosecuting parents for choosing a delivery method for 
medicinal marijuana that may be a safer and more practical 
alternative than smoking.

"These aren't criminals. They're patients. They're people. We have to 
remember that."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom