While the medical marijuana legal questions are examined in court, state lawmakers will study proposed legislation in 2012 aimed at clarifying the law.
House lawmakers are expected to study a package of bills introduced in 2011 that proponents hope will clarify ambiguities in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, chairs the House Judiciary Committee. State Rep. Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford, also serves on that committee. Walsh expects to hear more public comments and receive more input in February about the proposed legislation. Walsh said he has met with dispensary operators, caregivers, patients and patient advocacy groups.
“We’re trying to meet with everybody,” Walsh said. “We’re trying to cover all potential concerns. It’s a one-shot opportunity to bring greater understanding and predictability of the law.”
The proposed legislation:
- Requires traditional doctor-patient relationships to end the current practice of some doctors certifying patients for medical marijuana without even seeing the patient or knowing the patient’s medical history. Walsh said a recent Detroit Free Press article reported that just 55 doctors have certified about 45,000 — or 71 percent — of all medical marijuana registrants;
- Prohibits patient-to-patient transactions and requiring growers to keep their plants in enclosed, locked facilities accessible only to the registered caregiver or patient;
- Allows access by law enforcement to the state’s medical marijuana registry. Law enforcement currently can only verify a patient/caregiver by contacting the state Department of Community Health and verifying an identification on the patient/caregiver’s card. It also requires an applicant include a photo during the registration process. The specifications for the photo mirror that for a passport photo.
- Clarifies zoning guidelines as many city, village and township boards do not know how to classify dispensaries opening within their boundaries.
Walsh said lawmakers welcome input. “Our intent is to provide legislative framework for the predictability and guidelines for all the state. You still have a right to use it, but we having difficulty with the distribution issue,” he said.
Livonia City Attorney Don Knapp appreciates any legislative efforts, but wonders whether they will reach the 75 percent legislative threshold of support required for any change on voter-initiated measures. “I think any effort at clarity is good,” Knapp said. “While I like the fact that they are studying legislation, I’m a little reluctant that its ultimately going to be adopted.”
Dan Korobkin, attorney for the Michigan American Civil Liberties Union, which has filed a lawsuit currently on appeal against the city of Livonia over an ordinance that bans medical marijuana, said the state law and voters approval of medical marijuana allows its usage by patients without prosecution.
“If there are ways to make it better for everyone involved, that would be great,” Korobkins said. “But if legislators think of getting rid of the law, that would go against what the vast majority of voters wanted when they approved medical marijuana.
“I don’t think they would do that. I don’t think legislators are interested in going against the will of the people.”
Attorney Neil Rockind isn’t a fan of the legislation. Rockind believes the law should keep patient information confidential and ensure medical marijuana use. Rockind believes law enforcement agencies should not be what he called a stakeholder in this debate after voters have approved medical marijuana and its use is permitted under state law. “Law enforcement works for government,” Rockind said. “Their job is harder, but who cares? Why is that an issue?”
Rockind isn’t optimistic about medical marijuana’s future. “I’d like to believe that legislators are going to be receptive and sympathetic, but the attorney general is going to have to have a change in mindset. I’m not optimistic about those things.”
via Home Town Life