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Medical Marijuana Should Be Left To Communities To Decide, Legislator Says

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Two dozen people gathered Tuesday night at Birmingham's Baldwin Public Library to hear a state lawmaker say a bill he sponsored could close a gap in the state law on medical marijuana and make it easier for "little old ladies" to get the drug.


State Rep. Mike Callton, a Republican from Barry County, north of Kalamazoo, said his bill would let each Michigan city, township and village decide for itself whether to allow "provisioning centers" for distribution of medical marijuana.


Many medical users say Michigan needs a system of public distribution centers, often called dispensaries -- although Callton said he avoids that term because it became controversial after state Attorney General Bill Schuette declared dispensaries illegal.


The meeting was held in the heart of Oakland County, scene of numerous police raids and criminal prosecutions of dispensaries in 2010 and 2011 by county authorities, who repeatedly have said they were obligated to shut down dispensaries. Other counties have taken different tacks, including Wayne and Washtenaw, where dispensaries have remained open as cases to determine their legality work their way to the Michigan Supreme Court.


"How many of you have been arrested?" Callton asked the crowd. Ten people raised hands.


"How many have had your property seized?" he asked next. Six hands went up.


"And how many of you live in fear of being arrested?" Nearly every hand went up.


Callton is sponsoring House Bill 5580, which he said would guide municipalities on how to regulate marijuana distribution centers. Attorney Michael Komorn of Southfield said it also would reduce the ways some county prosecutors and sheriffs have curtailed legal access.


The bill is in the House Judiciary Committee. Callton expects it won't come to a vote in the full House until next year.


Callton said he's one of a handful of Republican lawmakers who say Michiganders should have fewer obstacles to obtaining medical marijuana. That represents a big change of heart for the chiropractor, who said he voted against allowing medical marijuana in Michigan when the statewide vote was held in 2008, but then began seeing patients who benefited from medical marijuana.


One was "a sweet 75-year-old lady, definitely not a hippie," who was able with medical-marijuana candies to control her tremors from Parkinson's disease "enough to get a good night's sleep again," he said.


Members of the Birmingham Compassion Club hope the bill passes, said club director Chad Carr. "A lot of us need protection" from overzealous police, Carr said.


Contact Bill Laitner: 313-223-4485 or blaitner@freepress.com



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