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Why eight years for medical marijuana regs?

September 21, 2016

Shortly after Michigan voters supported an initiative to legalize medical marijuana, patient rights advocates couldn’t get the time of day from lawmakers, who argued the regulation of medical marijuana was too hot to handle.   

“Some of them even walked out of the room and said, ‘We’re done,'” said Robin Schneider, the legislative policy director and patient advocate for the National Patients Rights Association, who helped lobby the package through the Senate last week and the House this week.

She reported the focus was always on taking care of the persons who needed the product and eventually that message got through, but then law enforcement got involved, which added more time to the debate.

“Each time we made some progress, they would move the goal-posts,” she told the Off the Record panel. “They would add five to ten more concerns.”

But then the measure cleared the House last March and languished in the Senate until last week. In the run-up to the final vote, the business lobbyists got into the act and instead of moving the process along, she said she believes that slowed the process down again.

“Once we started to get traction” they jumped in, she said.

“They had their business plan,” but she said her group never wanted this to be about a business plan. The focus needed to stay on the patients and families benefiting from the proposed regulations. She said the movement did not need the lobbyists to get this passed adding, “We would have succeeded without the lobbyists.”

At the last minute, there was a concern about transporting marijuana.

There were concerns about citizens moving the pot from one place to another. One of the high-rollers in the debate even offered an 11th hour amendment to limit the transportation of the product to companies that paid over $25 million in excise taxes. Schneider reported she discovered the language at 10 p.m. the night before a critical hearing and worked to have it removed.

The issue of transportation is one of the loose ends that she said must be addressed in the rules that will be drafted to implement the new law. She foresees the possible need for armored cars to do the work, complete with two licensed occupants.

She disagreed with Sen. Pat Colbeck (R-Plymouth) that the regulations are the camel’s nose under the tent that will eventually lead to legalization of grass.

Schneider did say that “It’s not a question of if, but when,” it will be legalized, but “the framework” of these rules will help to govern that, as well.

As for her own personal view, as long as the patient’s rights are protected under legalization, she would not oppose legalization but her group is not involved in that.

However, she revealed that the national organization that does want legislation did offer help, first in getting the ballot proposal adopted in 2008 and then by providing in-kind contributions, not money, to the recent effort, which resulted in final passage this week.

About 200,000 patients have medical pot cards and she expects the price of the product to come down in a year or so after the law is implemented.

Schneider’s appearance can be replayed on wkar.org. 

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