Drama Brewing around medical marijuana bills in final days of ‘lame duck’ session

LANSING — With a little less than 48 hours remaining in the legislative session, Michigan law enforcement and public health officials expressed concern about two medical marijuana bills they say are being rushed through the Legislature.

In a Wednesday morning press briefing, the executive directors of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriff’s Association and Michigan Association for Local Public Health urged Michigan senators not to pass House Bills 5104 and 4271.

The bills would allow for the return of regulated dispensaries and allow registered patients to use edibles. Parts of the bills would also allow medical marijuana cardholders to sell up to 50 ounces of excess product, something that concerned Robert Stevenson, head of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police.

“We’re creating an incentive for people to get a medical marijuana card and become involved in drug distribution,” Stevenson said.

The bills passed the Michigan House of Representatives back in December 2013 and have been sitting in the Michigan Senate for about a year. Stevenson, along with Terrence Jungel, head of the sheriff’s association, and Meghan Swain, head of the association for local public health, urged lawmakers to leave them be.

However, Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville has been working on potential modifications to the legislation and believes both bills could still end up on Gov. Rick Snyder’s desk by the end of the year.

“We’re gonna try,” Richardville told reporters Wednesday. “We’ve got about 48 hours, and that’s more than enough time.”

When told the governor’s office didn’t believe there is enough time to finish work on the bills this year, Richardville said, “If we send him something, he’ll have to react to it. We’ve outperformed their expectations before.”

Richardville, who said that Michigan State Police have been helpful during discussions, said he’s trying to “walk that tightrope” between law enforcement needs and legitimate patient access to medical marijuana.

“Some of these people really do need this kind of medication,” he said.

The law enforcement officials who gathered Wednesday morning said they had not been consulted about the medical marijuana bills.

“We’ve not been invited to the table to talk about them,” Stevenson said.

Jungel, a retired sheriff from Ionia County, said the bills haven’t been vetted enough and complained lawmakers are trying to rush them through the Legislature in the lame-duck session.

“It’s the equivalent of Obamacare in that it’s not being betted adequately before implementation,” he said.

Swain said she was concerned with the lack of regulation regarding the edibles portions of the legislation. Edibles are foods baked with butter that’s been infused with THC, the active intoxicating chemical in marijuana.

She said it’s not clear how edibles will be regulated or who will regulate the bakeries where the edibles are made. Swain hoped the bills would be pushed into the next legislative session for more discussion and more input from local health departments.

“There are a lot of moving pieces and parts of this that have not been addressed in this legislation,” she said.

The law enforcement officials seemed mostly concerned with the provision in the bill that would allow people with medical marijuana cards to sell their excess supply.

Stevenson compared the provision with a person who is prescribed Oxycontinin being allowed to take three pills and sell the rest of the bottle to someone else. He said he’s also concerned about the bills not providing a way for law enforcement to track those sales.

“There’s no way we can track where the medical marijuana is going to, who it’s coming from and where it’s ultimately going,” he said.

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