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Medical Marijuana Regulation Bills Exhaled From Senate

September 13, 2016

Roughly eight years since Michigan voters agreed to allow marijuana use for medical purposes, the Senate passed legislation Thursday creating a regulatory framework for the substance.  HB 4209 and HB 4827 create five different licenses for the legal sale of medical marijuana — growing, testing, processing, transporting and selling through provisioning centers.

After passing the 110-member House with at least 95 “yes” votes, the entire package was being held up by the issue of “medibles,” marijuana-infused products made for those who can’t inhale smoke. Since the bill amended the voter-passed initiative, it needed 28 “yes” votes, three-quarters of the 38-member Senate.

Conservative senators were concerned about substance abuse issues with cannabis if it were put in a more usable form. However, advocates stressed the legislation is necessary to treat epileptic children, who have seen significant improvements from the use of marijuana.

The bills were discharged out of the Senate Judiciary Committee since the votes weren’t in the committee to move them. The bills create a 3 percent tax on marijuana and give locals the authority to better regulate where and how many provisioning centers can be in a community.

A five-member state board would be created to implement the new regulations, and under the legislation, state-licensed activities involving medical marijuana would be protected.

The bills come as various communities, like Lansing, have opted not to enforce court rulings that ban dispensaries as a way to connect cancer patients and others to marijuana. Senate Judiciary Chair Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) said this has created a “wild west” scenario, where marijuana is not being checked for customer safety. He said the law enforcement community and local governments are “crying for help.”

The Michigan State Police, law enforcement community, the prosecutors and the local governments all had a hand in passing this law.

“It’s out of control,” Jones said. “The voters have created a system that is flawed.”

Sen. Patrick Colbeck (R-Canton) urged a “no” vote on the bills, saying that the current caregiver system is working well enough and if there are issues with the proliferation of medical marijuana shops, they should be taken care of locally or by law enforcement.

His alternative was to run medical marijuana through the pharmacies as opposed to creating a new bureaucratic system.

Colbeck also argued a lot of money is being made through this multi-tiered system of distribution and some of them have given campaign contributions to senators.

“A lot of money at stake for a lot of players involved,” Colbeck uttered to a hush in the Senate chambers. “A lot of money to assist lawmakers in their decision making . . . Guys, this isn’t the legacy I want to leave the citizens of the state of Michigan,” Colbeck said.

A visually irritated Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) declined to comment on Colbeck’s remarks when asked about them later by reporters.

However, Jones was blunt when asked about them.

“I think that was one of the most asinine remarks I’ve ever heard. I’m the guy who sent Matty Moroun’s check back. Nobody buys Rick Jones. Nobody.

“I got behind this because I truly believe we had to fix this for the police agencies and for the cities, the townships and the counties. My study of the Canadian system, I believe there are medical benefits,” Jones said.

When he served in the House, Sen. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth) ran out of time in his attempt to regulate medical marijuana. He told the Senators that wanted this package to protect the 37,000 caregivers who currently grow marijuana. They are forced to either up their production from 72 to 100 plants or be left out of system altogether, he said.

“It’s the people that we are leaving out of this law,” Horn said.

The main bill creating the distribution system, HB 4209, passed 25-12 with Sens. Darwin Booher (R-Evart), Tom Casperson (R-Escanaba), Colbeck, Horn, Joe Hune (R-Hamburg Twp.), Jim Marleau (R-Lake Orion), Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair), John Proos (R-St. Joseph), Dave Robertson (R-Grand Blanc), Tory Rocca (R-Sterling Heights), Tonya Schuitmaker (R-Lawton) and Dale Zorn (R-Ida) voting no.

The legislation that allows the medibles, HB 4210, passed 28-9 with Booher, Casperson, Colbeck, Marleau, Pavlov, Robertson, Rocca, Schuitmaker and Zorn voting no.

The other bills in the package that moved today were HB 4287 (passed 27-10), SB 0141 (passed 26-11) and SB 1014 (passed 26-11).

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