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Medical marijuana bill could serve as ‘umbrella’ for legalized pot

September 29, 2015

It doesn’t legalize recreational pot, but Rep. Mike CALLTON (R-Nashville) said his medical marijuana legalization bill that moved out of the House Judiciary Committee Tuesday would serve as “an umbrella” once and if the legalization is approved.

Callton said he is “not on board with the petition drives” that are out there to do that, but he made a recent trip to Colorado to gauge how its legalization effort is doing. 

“I did not see — what’s the show, The Walking Dead — any brain dead zombies looking for their next buzz,” Callton said. “It looked like a very prosperous state . . . I didn’t smell marijuana in the streets. I didn’t see hippies and stoners walking around everywhere, so it was not like some stoner Armageddon.” Plus, he added the incoming revenue from taxing the product has “done incredible things to their budget.” 

Callton conceded his “biggest mistake” last time was not seeking more input from the folks who police marijuana. MIRS asked if this time he consulted with Republican Attorney General Bill SCHUETTE? 

At first the Nashville Republican offered, “no comment,” but then launched into a lecture on the role of the A.G. 

“Bill Schuette’s job is to enforce the laws of the state, not to make the laws of the state. That’s my job,” Callton said. “You don’t see me going around trying to enforce laws as a legislator, so I don’t know if it’s appropriate for the attorney general to attempt to make law.” 

Medical marijuana would be sold at provisioning centers with an 8 percent excise tax on top of a 6 percent sales tax, under his legislation, which moved out of the House Judiciary Committee. 

It was described by Callton as the “best” medical marijuana regulation bill he’s put together in his four and a half years working on the issue. 

HB 4209 includes the use of a “secure transport company” to bring the substance from producers to processors and from processers to the provisioning centers, where the marijuana would be sold. 

Forty percent of the revenue collected from the 8 percent tax would go to the state and the municipalities and counties would get 27.5 percent a piece. Five percent would go to law enforcement. 

Combined with HB 4210 and HB 4827, the medical marijuana package creates separate business “tiers” of producers or growers, testing facilities, the transport companies and the sellers. The bills also require background checks and training for people working in the marijuana industry. 

A state assessment of $13 million would be gathered from the licenses required under the new proposal. The package also includes a seed-to-sale tracking system and the regulation of marijuana-infused products. 

The bills come after Michigan voters in 2008 approved the use of medical marijuana to treat mostly the pain connected with specific conditions. The measure spurred dispensaries to distribute medical marijuana, but the courts shut them down as being illegal. Today’s bill is the latest attempt to provide the regulatory framework to create a legal framework for people to obtain the “healing medicine they need.” 

Several patients later told the panel how their lives have been changed for the better by medical marijuana and are pleased to see a regulatory framework that would create “a clean, well-lit place” to purchase the product. 

They received support from many on the panel, particularly Rep. Rose Mary ROBINSON (D-Detroit), who said in response to one medical marijuana patient, “There’s nothing wrong with getting high.” 

“They need a place to go rather than the street,” said Frank JAMES, owner of a Gaylord cannabis flour store. “The people who come into our store, they’re not the type of people we anticipated coming in. This is something that would offer some protection to people looking for a safe access place.” 

This year’s bill comes after Callton succeeded in getting a medical marijuana regulation package through the House last term, only to see it fail in the Senate because of pushback from prosecutors and the police. 

To try to clear that roadblock this year, Callton worked with law enforcement to get conditions like the excise tax and the “secure transport company” into the bill to remove their opposition. 

In doing so, though, some medical marijuana proponents launched into the committee for adding regulations and costs to the medicine. 

Rep. Jeff IRWIN (D-Ann Arbor) tried to strip the “secure transport company” and 8 percent excise tax from the bill, out of concern that such regulations would price patients out of the legal market and drive them back to the “black market.” 

It failed to get the needed support from panel members. 

“If we grab too tightly, it might squeeze through our fingers and we might end up with less control than more control,” Irwin said.

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