When the Michigan electorate voted overwhelmingly in 2008 to allow the use of medical marijuana in the state, many didn’t expect the blowback the law is facing from local officials in the form of ordinances and moratoriums. But lawmakers in Lansing are also trying to refine and tweak the law, this time by proposing to ban so-called marijuana bars or clubs.
The legislation — Senate Bill (SB) 17, which was referred out of the Senate Health Policy Committee earlier this month — would define marijuana bars as properties where people are allowed to use medical marijuana but have to pay a fee or anything else of value. A medical marijuana club would be defined as an association of people with membership restricted to those who pay money or anything of value to become members with the purpose of more than one of those members using medical marijuana.
Hospices, licensed nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities, and properties where marijuana is legally dispensed under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) would be exempt from the provisions in the legislation, according to analysts.
State Sen. Mike Kowall (R-Commerce, Highland, Milford, Walled Lake, Wixom, Wolverine Lake, White Lake, Orchard Lake, West Bloomfield), who has had experience with the issue at the local level as the former supervisor of White Lake Township, said lawmakers need to “tread carefully” when looking to modify what he called an “intentionally wide open” law that “just leaves everything up to the imagination of the courts.”
“The main issue is we are trying to regulate a federally-illegal activity,” Kowall said. “That’s where the fly is in the ointment.”
State Sen. David Robertson (R-Waterford), who is the vice-chairman of the Senate Health Policy Committee, said Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) comes to the state Senate from a law enforcement background and raised a “legitimate point” that people who legally obtain medical marijuana “should not be smoking it on the premises of these compassion clubs if they are going to be driving home.”
“The bill is intended to say that, if it’s a prescription, you need to treat it as such (and use it at home),” Robertson said. “We want to make certain you’re not endangering someone by doing so.”
The MMMA requires medical marijuana patients to carry identification cards issued by the state, and caregivers to grow limited amounts of marijuana for qualifying patients in an enclosed, locked facility. A caregiver can help up to five registered patients and may grow 12 plants per patient.
Both patients and caregivers must be registered with the state.
Under the legislation, organizing or operating a medical marijuana bar or club would be a misdemeanor offense punishable by up to 90 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $500.