Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana in 2010 but legislators still struggle to agree on terms for licensing and regulating medical marijuana dispensaries.(Photo: Ed Andrieski, Associated Press)
Medical marijuana is back on agendas in Lansing.
The Michigan House Judiciary Committee is to begin new hearings today for two medical-marijuana bills. Both passed the House overwhelmingly last year, then hit roadblocks in the lame-duck session of the state Senate last fall, when statewide police groups lobbied hard against them.
The bills would allow two big additions to Michigan’s medical-marijuana landscape:
■ Dispensaries, the shops that claim to sell tested medical marijuana in secure settings, so that users aren’t forced to buy whatever the local street-corner dealer is selling.
■ Medibles, the slang word for marijuana that is edible or consumed in various ways other than smoking, an option that many users say is vital to their health because they can’t or won’t smoke the drug.
On one side of the renewed debate are those who say that state voters declared marijuana was medicine in the 2008 election, passing Michigan’s medical marijuana act with 63% of the vote. On the other side are those who say that many of Michigan’s approximately 100,000 state-approved users of medical marijuana just want to get high and that dispensaries amount to legalized drug dealing.
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State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, a chiropractor from southwest Michigan, is the chief sponsor of the dispensaries bill — House Bill 4209 — and he co-wrote the medibles bill, House Bill 4210. Although dispensaries are illegal, hundreds are said to be open across the state and Callton has visited several.
“You have some very good ones, very concerned about product quality,” he said.
“And you have some others that are just slinging dope. I’ve been to a place in Flint where a circle of men were passing a joint around, and they all said they all had medical marijuana cards. That’s recreational use operating under the guise of medical use,” Callton said.
After law-enforcement objections stymied the bills last year, new versions have been tweaked to please not only the police groups but Gov. Rick Snyder as well, Callton said.
Snyder’s staff and some state lawmakers wanted the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to have a strong hand in regulating dispensaries, said Robin Schneider, legal liaison of the Detroit-based National Patients Rights Association.
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