Michigan – Several proposals to clarify marijuana law

LANSING, MI — The legal status of medical marijuana dispensaries and edible products could be clarified under re-introduced legislation that stalled out last year in the Michigan Legislature.

The proposals would help local communities, patients and caregivers, according to state Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, while allowing “law enforcement to responsibly regulate Michigan’s medical marijuana law in a common-sense fashion.”

Callton, in a Thursday morning press conference, announced a new bill that would provide a regulatory framework for “provisioning centers,” which could sell extra medical marijuana grown by caregivers after the product was tested for quality and contaminants.

Local governments could choose to ban provisioning centers or limit the number of storefronts that can operate under Callton’s proposal.

Separate legislation sponsored by Rep. Lisa Lyons, R-Alto, would allow certified medical marijuana patients to use non-smokable forms for the drug, including liquids, edibles and topical creams.

“The issue we’re talking about today isn’t whether you support medicinal marijuana or not. The fact is voters do, and they did so overwhelmingly,” said Lyons.

“The question today is how do we make sure patients have safe access to medicinal marijuana and, very importantly, how can we ensure parents and patients have alternative measures to using marijuana besides smoking?”

Ida Chinonis of Grand Blanc, whose 6-year-old daughter with a congenital genetic disorder, said she turned to medical marijuana after Bella suffered a seizure that lasted an entire weekend.

She obtained marijuana oil from a dispensary in the Detroit area and provides it to her daughter via oral injection three times a day.

“Our last resort was to try medical marijuana, and so far it’s working,” Chinonis said, noting she had previously given her daughter prescription pharmaceuticals.

Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law does not directly address dispensaries or edible products, and a series of court cases have clouded the legal status of both.

The Michigan Supreme Court, in an early 2013 ruling, empowered county prosecutors to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries as a “public nuisance” but similar businesses have continued to operate in many communities.

Similarly, the Michigan Court of Appeals has ruled that “pot brownies” are not a usable form of marijuana allowable under the medical law, raising questions about various “medible” products.

Lansing Police Chief Michael Yankowski said that uncertainty over the status medical marijuana dispensaries makes enforcement and prosecution challenging. He welcomed legislation to clarify the legal status.

“If I have a choice between a shooting and a medical marijuana dispensary, I’m going to investigate the shooting, because we’re clear on what the rules and regulation are,” Yankowski said.

Detroit City Councilman James Tate also offered support for the legislation, as did Sens. Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights and Coleman Young II, D-Detroit.

Notably absent from the press conference was the Michigan Sheriffs’ Association, which raised concerns about similar legislation late last year and effectively helped kill the bills in the Senate.

The association has not yet responded to a request for comment on the reintroduced bills.

“I don’t think we’ll be able to do this if they’re against us,” said Callton, saying he hoped to engage the sheriffs’ group in the process as the legislation moves forward. “But I do think everyone is starting to recognize we need a rational approach to medical marijuana.”

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