In yet another move to revise the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), enacted by the state Legislature following an overwhelming statewide vote in favor of legalizing medical marijuana in 2008, lawmakers in Lansing have put forth a broad MMMA reform package that will be considered by the state House Judiciary Committee.
The effort comes on the heels of a sweeping opinion by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette that, among other things, stands with communities that are being legally challenged based on moratoriums or ordinances enacted in the wake of the MMMA’s passage.
“We want to clear up the ambiguity involving the law and get the focus back to what people intended when they voted for this in 2008 to assure that medical marijuana is available for patients who truly need it,” state Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stated in a press release. “We are aiming to end the practice of doctors profiting from what is essentially the back-door legalization of marijuana, which was not the intent of the law.”
Among other things, the bills would require “traditional doctor-patient relationships” in an effort to curb a practice in which some doctors certify patients for the drug without seeing the patient or knowing the patient’s medical history, as well as prohibit patient-to-patient transactions of medical marijuana. The bills, sponsors said, would clarify municipal zoning guidelines in light of the confusion communities across the state are experiencing with the law.
House Bills (HBs) 4850 through 4856 were introduced Thursday, June 30.
In addition, the legislation would prohibit the transport or possession of medical marijuana in a car or other motor vehicle unless it is enclosed in a case, in the trunk, or inaccessible from the interior of the vehicle, as well as prohibit a person from advertising for primary caregiver services, or offers to sell, transfer, or make available medical marijuana.
State Reps. Chuck Moss (R-Orchard Lake), Gail Haines (R-Waterford, West Bloomfield), Eileen Kowall (R-Highland, White Lake), and Hugh Crawford (R-Walled Lake, Wixom) have all sponsored or signed on as co-sponsors of some of the bills in the legislative package.
Moss equated the MMMA’s current language to a state law “saying people can drive but there are no traffic laws.”
“It’s a sensitive subject because the people voted to let there be medicine for sick people,” he said. “That’s what they want, not to legalize pot smoking, not to have this be Amsterdam.”
“The package as a whole would not go against the wishes of the voters, but it would refine and narrow the scope,” Kowall said. “There’s just been huge holes in the the law the way it is now and unfortunately” people have been taking advantage of that, she added.
“Fifty-five doctors have certified 70 percent” of medical marijuana patients, she said, citing a published news report.
Kowall is the lead sponsor on HB 4852, which would prohibit the cultivation or possession of marijuana plants in a facility at a location that is in violation of a local zoning ordinance prohibiting medical marijuana cultivation facilities.
“I know the local governments have had a really hard time trying to deal with this,” Kowall said. “My bill would basically allow them the ability to zone in such a way that they could have an ordinance that would not allow for growing or facilities that grew, cultivated, or stored (medical marijuana).”
Communities across the lakes area have enacted moratoriums on medical marijuana and extended them repeatedly, oftentimes saying that they are waiting for the state Legislature to provide some added clarification to the statute that received 63 percent of the vote as a ballot initiative in 2008.
Because the MMMA is a voter-initiated law, a three-fourths vote of both chambers of the state Legislature would be required to pass some of the bills.
Crawford and state Rep. Lisa Brown (D-West Bloomfield, Commerce, Wolverine Lake) couldn’t be reached for comment prior to press time.