Lawmakers in Michigan Want to Amend MMJ Laws

Michigan

In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries were not protected under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008. Under that ruling, towns and municipalities were free to shut down dispensaries under the guise of a “public nuisance,” which not only hurt the industry in Michigan, but medical marijuana patients as well.

Now, two years later, Republican state Rep. Mike Callton wants to fix this injustice by sponsoring HB 4209, a bill that will establish “provisioning centers,” i.e. dispensaries, where patients can legally purchase medical marijuana.

Under the proposed piece of legislation, law enforcement would have access to “provisioning centers” to ensure rules were being followed; the centers would be subject to yearly health inspections; all cannabis sold in these centers would be required to be lab tested for safety and the state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department would devise regulations for the system.

Callton’s bill is a reiteration of one introduced last year that ultimately died due to legislative meddling on behalf of the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association and Michigan’s Attorney General Bill Schuette. Critics claimed the reason they pushed to kill the bill was that they were not properly consulted 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. What the attorney general fails to realize is that medical marijuana is much easier to access in the absence of a regulated dispensary system. Drug dealers don’t ask for ID, dispensaries do.

Also on the docket is a bill, sponsored by state Rep. Lisa Lyons, which would allow non-smokeable forms of medical marijuana. As it stands now, Michigan’s medical marijuana law is somewhat vague on the matter and Lyons believes it is a problem.

The vague wording has “created controversial court cases that have created what I believe are medical injustices, social injustices, and health policy issues,” Lyons told Michigan Radio. “We have to get this fixed.”

One of the court cases Lyons is referring to is a court case regarding medical marijuana caregiver Earl Cantrell Chambers. In 2011, Chambers was pulled over during a routine traffic stop where the officer found edible and smokeable marijuana; bags, jars and scales; and paperwork indicating sales were made to people.

Despite producing a medical marijuana card and a caregiver certificate, Chambers was still arrested for possession of marijuana with intent to distribute and sentenced to 33 days in jail with two years probation.

Chambers appealed this sentence and the Michigan Court of Appeals denied his appeal, claiming that edible marijuana was not legal under the 2008 law unless it contained actual foliage from the marijuana plant.

While there seems to be some support for the two medical marijuana measures in the state legislature, there is still some doubt that these measures will pass. The Michigan Sheriffs’ Association still hasn’t come out in support or opposition to the measures, which could make or break this legislative movement.

For over 40 years law enforcement has perpetuated and supported the war on marijuana, arresting and ruining countless lives. Why should law enforcement officers get a say in public policy when it is clear that their interests are not aligned with the people or even the most basic principles of freedom?

One can only hope that the legislature will listen to what the people want and not what law enforcement wants.

William Sumner, a freelance writer and marijuana journalist, was a staff writer for MJINews from May 2014 through February 2018. You can follow him on Twitter @W_Sumner.

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