With all the hubbub that has been raised over the existence of so-called medical marijuana dispensaries in the state following the enactment of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), a group of lawmakers is looking for support from fellow legislators to legalize what they are referring to as “provisioning centers” for medical marijuana — effectively, dispensaries. And while we supported the legalization of medical marijuana in 2008 when the state’s voters approved the measure that was on the general election ballot, the dispensaries proposal from state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) needs rigorous study and input from all stakeholders, especially considering that there are a number of questionable — and, frankly, downright preposterous — aspects to House Bill (HB) 5580 as it is currently written.
Put forward earlier this month by Callton (who noted that he voted against the enactment of the MMMA when it was approved in the state House) and state Reps. Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford) and Kevin Daley (R-Lum), HB 5580, which has been referred to the state House Judiciary Committee, would establish certain rules and guidelines for legal dispensaries in Michigan — something that’s currently not allowed for under the MMMA. Among those provisions laid out in the legislation is that communities would be able to enact ordinances prohibiting them or maintaining such bans that are already on the books.
In addition, the bill also calls for a ban on dispensaries within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school, and one could not be located within the same office space as that of a physician.
The dispensary would also be prohibited from advertising the sale of medical marijuana on a billboard, on television, or on the radio. They would also be banned from employing anyone with a felony drug conviction or anyone under 21-years-old, and would be required to perform a felony background check on employees.
On-site use of marijuana at the dispensaries would be prohibited, as well. In addition, they would not be allowed to dispense more than 2.5 ounces of the drug to a registered qualifying patient within a 10-day period, whether directly or through a caregiver.
In addition, the principal officer, a board member, or operator of a dispensary could not be someone who has not lived in Michigan for at least two years.
The existing 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.
State law permits physician-approved use of marijuana by patients with debilitating medical conditions including cancer, glaucoma, AIDS, hepatitis C, multiple sclerosis, and other conditions as approved by the state Department of Community Health. Both patients and caregivers must be registered with the state.
Communities across the lakes area have enacted moratoriums on medical marijuana and extended them repeatedly, oftentimes stating that they are waiting for the Legislature to provide some clarification to the MMMA, which received 63 percent of the vote as a ballot initiative in 2008.
If lawmakers are going to give Callton’s proposal the light of day in committee, it deserves — and requires — input and testimony from all possible stakeholders, including local government representatives, proponents of the MMMA and, of course, law enforcement officials, among others, to address and fine-tune some of the elements of the bill that are questionable.
For example, putting a 2.5-ounce cap on the amount of medical marijuana a registered qualifying patient could receive within a 10-day period from a dispensary is, frankly, outrageous — not because it’s too little, but because it’s way too much for one patient and we fear that maximum limit would lead to an increase in the illicit sale of excess medical marijuana.
In addition, the ban on advertising the sale of medical marijuana on a billboard, on television or on the radio strikes us as unnecessary and arbitrary.
Finally, we’re unaware that this proposal would address any glaring “need” for dispensaries in Michigan. The MMMA sets adequate and straight forward guidelines for the use and administration of medical marijuana for qualifying patients, and the state could just as well live without authorizing dispensaries.
At this point, there are more questions than answers on the proposal to legalize dispensaries in Michigan. While we’re not necessarily opposed to them being allowed to operate in Michigan, much as they are allowed in states like Colorado and California, officials need to hunker down and do their homework before such a radical change in state medical marijuana policy is enacted.