A trio of state lawmakers want to clarify the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) by making dispensaries legal, an effort that’s drawing reservations from some local officials who have been grappling with the issue since the MMMA received overwhelming public support by the state’s electorate in the 2008 general election.
Although there are no provisions for dispensaries — known as “provisioning centers” under House Bill (HB) 5580, proposed by state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) — under the current state law, and the Michigan Court of Appeals has reaffirmed that position at least twice, Callton is calling for allowing the provisioning centers, which would be commercial businesses that “acquire, possess, cultivate, manufacture, deliver, transfer, or transports marijuana and sell, supply, or dispense marijuana to registered qualifying patients, directly or through the patients’ registered primary caregivers.”
“The bill (to enact the MMMA), I think, was deliberately poorly written,” Callton said, adding that he opposed the enacting legislation when it cleared the state House. “I voted against it, but if you’re going to have it, it really could be a lot better. I think there could be a lot of good uses for medical marijuana.”
But although the bill would allow for dispensaries, that doesn’t mean that the bill’s sponsors, which also include state Reps. Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford) and Kevin Daley (R-Lum), want them allowed outright.
Communities would be allowed to enact ordinances prohibiting them or to maintain such bans that are already on the books. The bill also calls for a ban on provisioning centers within 1,000 feet of a primary or secondary school, and a provisioning center could not be located in the same office space as 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 their 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.
“(Provisioning centers) are not right for every community or every place,” said Callton, a chiropractor who grew up in West Bloomfield Township, adding that he’s met with the state Attorney General’s Office staff about the proposal.
“I think it’s got a good chance to make it through (the state House) Judiciary (Committee), but a lot of politics come into play,” Callton said. “It’s an election year … (Judiciary Committee Chairman John) Walsh (R-Livonia) worked with me on the bill. I worked with Democrats, Republicans, taking their input.”
Commerce Township Supervisor Tom Zoner said the proposal is “wrong.”
“Federal law doesn’t allow it,” he said of medical marijuana use. “The (township’s) ordinance says do whatever you do as long as it’s legal.”
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 MMMA, which received 63 percent of the vote as a ballot initiative in 2008.
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.
A local law enforcement official could not be reached for comment prior to press time.