Legislature mulls medical marijuana bills

Michigan lawmakers are preparing bills to clarify the current state of confusion surrounding a voter-approved medical marijuana law, according to The Associated Press.

New bills are being drafted for introduction to the Legislature within the next few months, joining some that already have been introduced. The bills would require stricter doctor-patient relationships before a patient could get authorization to use the drug and likely cut down on the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state.

The law, approved by Michigan voters in 2008, has sparked confusion as local governments, police, patients and businesses try to sort out exactly what is legal. Some of the legislative changes proposed would require support from three-fourths majorities in both the Republican-led House and Senate.

Among the changes being considered, according to The AP:

Attorney General Bill Schuette wants to make it a felony for physicians to knowingly give false certification of a patient’s debilitating condition and to knowingly submit false information on an application for a patient or caregiver card.

Some police agencies want a better system to verify the authenticity of authorization cards, concerned that it’s difficult to tell fakes from legitimate ones.

The state has issued more than 80,000 medical marijuana patient registrations.


Medical marijuana law, in practice, is still hazy

The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act needs some more tweaking, it seems. We’ve been getting news tips about raids around Southeast Michigan. The raids are happening during the lag time between when a patient or marijuana supplier (known as a caregiver) apply for state-issued cards that confirm their status to legally supply or use medical marijana, and the time that the cards are actually recieved.

The latest was the raid of Richard “Jim” Brace’s Hazel Park home. Brace, a 66-year-old retiree and medical marijuana patient, has a dedicated caregiver, or marijuana supplier.

Brace was putting his 7-year-old granddaughter to bed, according to his Southfield-based attorney Michael Komorn, when police knocked on his door. He says officers then busted the door in. We have have not seen the police report to verify that. According to Hazel Park police, the raid was conducted by the Oakland County Narcotics Enforcement Team.

Officers searched his house and found his marijuana. According to Komorn, they took his application folder, which contained copies of his medical records and documentation. Komorn said Brace had applied for his patient status on Jan. 9, and the application fee check was cashed on Jan. 12.

Though he said he wasn’t formally arrested, Brace said was handcuffed. Komorn said that no charges are pending and the police have told his client that the case is closed.

It’s not exactly a happy ending, though, says Komorn. It’s a red flag pointing to the problem of lag time between medical marijuana applications and patients’ receipt of their verification cards from the state.

By law, 20 days after receipt of an application and check to the state, a copy of the application and check receipt serve as proof of the patient’s status, Komorn said.

Exactly 20 days after the check was cashed, Brace was raided, said his lawyer.

Leave the pot to Mom & Pop

The City of Grand Rapids gave the green thumbs-down to commercial medical marijuana dispensaries. City officials say caregivers (medical marijuana growers) can operate at home very nicely, thank you very much.

From The Grand Rapids Press:

Medical marijuana should be grown and distributed from the home, not commercial dispensaries or “compassion clubs,” the City Commission decided Tuesday.

Planning director Suzanne Schulz said the rules will allow medical marijuana growers, also known as caregivers, to operate as home-based businesses, similar to music teachers or tax preparers.

She said some are pushing for dispensaries and “compassion clubs,” where they can meet and seek treatment. The state law that stemmed from a 2008 voters initiative does not address dispensaries, she said.

What are they smoking?

That’s what Detroit-based Cannabis Counsel lawyer Matthew Abel is asking of the Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee, who is meeting next week to discuss a package of bills which would amend the public health code so that medical marijuana must be dispensed by pharmacists, and to classify medical marijuana as a schedule 2 controlled substance.

“It seems that if the legislature ever passed these bills, they would be in conflict with the medical marijuana statute,” Abel said. “So they’d need a 3/4 vote to supercede the law, and you know that they can’t even get 3/4 of the legislature to agree on lunch, let alone this.”

Southfield-based lawyer Michael Komorn, who also serves as the treasurer for the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said the bills are similar to bills introduced last year; last  year, the bills which also would have allowed for 10 marijuana growing facilities to be affiliated with a pharmacy, got no traction.

This year’s incarnation of the bills would essentially make all production of medical marijuana illegal, though use would still be protected by law, Komorn said.

“It’s like the stamp act, arcane and without any understanding of what really is going on with patient needs,” Komorn said. “Bottom line, this is an attempt ot repeal the Michigan medical marijuana act.”

It’s impossible, Abel said, to require dispensing of medical marijuana through pharmacies.

“They don’t have a supply, and no way to get it. There’s just no way for them to do it,” Abel said.

Still, he’s resting easy with the idea that the bills are going nowhere, and are really more about grandstanding for political popularity than they are about the Michigan medical marijuana law.

The committee will take up the bills Jan. 19, 1 p.m., in room 210 in the Farnum building in Lansing.

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