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Michigan House Judiciary Committee To Consider Three Key Bills


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A highly anticipated hearing has been set by the House Judiciary Committee Thursday to hear testimony on three important medical marijuana bills. Make sure your state representative hears that you want him or her to support improving access and protections for patients!

 

 

Two of the bills represent key improvements for medical marijuana laws in the state. HB 4271 would protect locally licensed dispensaries to help ensure patients have regular and safe access to their medicine. HB 5104 would create clear legal protection for marijuana extracts, which are often used in edibles. This is particularly important for seriously medical marijuana patients who cannot or prefer not to smoke.

 

The third bill, SB 660, would create a “pharmaceutical grade” standard for medical marijuana. This bill would not go into effect unless federal law changes and we feel the legislature should instead focus its attention on practical solutions for Michiganders. For more on this bill, click here.

 

 

Please make sure your senator and representative hear from you. If you choose to attend the hearing, keep in mind that time for speakers is very limited. Please also be sure to be courteous and to dress appropriately for a legislative hearing.

 

What: House Judiciary Standing Committee Hearing

Where: Room 521, House Office Building, 124 North Capitol Avenue, Lansing

When: Thursday, December 5 at 8:10 a.m.

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Mr. Chairman and Honorable Representatives of the Committee,

 

These are my written comments regarding the bills at issue in the House Judiciary Hearings scheduled December 5th, 2013, to wit, SB 0660, re: Pharmaceutical Grade Cannabis, HB 4271, re: Provisioning Center Act, and HB 5104, re: Amendments to the MMMA. I am a patient who uses the herb and have acted as caregiver for severely debilitated individuals. Many acquaintances derive substantial relief with its use that is often as efficacious as, and sometimes more than, front line pharmaceuticals. I consider it, along with the multitude of patients, a benign garden herb with medicinal benefit more akin to aloe than cocaine, and certainly safer than most pharmaceuticals. The literature that establishes its benign character is extensive. Harm is negligible.

 

On their face the bills are largely superfluous and without arguments than cannot be readily refuted. For instance we can look at the provision in SB 0660 that would require wiz bang gamma irradiation to sterilize the stuff. Heat and fire are the best sanitizers around and are the de facto means of ingestion, either by smoking, vaporizing with heat, cooking into foodstuffs, or preparing for oral administration by baking to render the therapeutic components more readily absorbable. We have every means to keep it safe not much differently than as I cook broccoli, and just as effectively. I will ask that the legislature be required to show past harm in not subjecting the herb to gamma irradiation or in any other matter where harm is described as a consideration. It is pretty obvious that these bills intend to more seriously restrict use by the patient community the law provides for.

 

Something that should be addressed is the obvious recalcitrant abuse of the law in a failure to protect authorized users and their caregivers. Rulings adverse to medical use by the Court of Appeals have been overturned by the Supreme Court and remanded with pointed instruction to get it right. Despite that those judges continue. Reactionary commentary on the part of the bench can be found in Judge O'Connel's thirty page unsolicited take on the law in the wider view (www.annarbor.com/20100914_C295809_45_295809C.OPN.pdf). We consider that to be irresponsible and nothing at all resembling reasonable jurisprudence. There are several cases that reflect the same. The legislature has authority to censure judges. I ask you please. During past Committee testimony it was apparent that members were dismayed at judicial intransigence refusing to afford the full protection of the law. The problem remains. Attorney General Schuette has steadfastly refused to instruct law enforcement departments in the State to train personnel to recognize and enforce the law as written. His agenda, which is clearly indicated in his public commentary, is transparent in that he works to rid the State of cannabis altogether, neglecting the 63% electorate that approved it for use in simple terms. We are sensitive to these issues and we vote. For that I ask that the legislature use its influence to compel him to perform his sworn duty.

 

We find little use for central distribution by agents of the government or in regulated commerce. The patient/caregiver model presently affords the best potential means to provide excellent quality cannabis that is safe for use and at an affordable price. The most cursory look at any cannabis website reveals an almost obsessive degree of attention to quality and safety. Books and other extant media provide volumes of information regarding those. Any of us will argue that our methods and results are equal, and even superior, to those of any commercial operation, and safer in that we can avoid toxic chemicals in production of the herb.

 

The single simplest, and I argue effective, change in the law that would responsibly enhance access to patients is to explicitly permit any patient to transfer cannabis to or from any other. That the limited authorized population is prohibited from freely sharing among ourselves mystifies. Rhode Island, which law most closely resembles our own, added legislation to do that. Another option is to strike the language, “The presumption may be rebutted by evidence that conduct related to marihuana was not for the purpose of alleviating the qualifying patient's debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the debilitating medical condition, in accordance with this act.”, from §4(d)(2) of the MMMA. It is that text the Supreme Court keyed on to inform their decision to prohibit said transfer. I ask that you amend the act by any appropriate means to maximize our access to the herb safely and at reasonable cost to us without that present restriction among ourselves.

 

Moves to tax in commerce and common business costs necessary to operate dispensaries, provisioning centers, or pharmacies approximately double the cost of the herb and sometimes more. By definition we are debilitated individuals, many or most of us with serious conditions that make it difficult or impossible to work and earn. Cannabis does not rise to the level of harmful substances that require recoupment of the cost of harm to the people or of the overblown oversight we are presently subject to and that which is the purpose of this hearing. It is just not there.

 

I find it laughable that the legislature recently opted to give the $3.5M in the LARA program fund balance which was overpaid by patients and caregivers to the agency in application fees to law enforcement. That money would have been far better used used to study the issues. That study should become a high priority with the state and would provide clarity and protection for the people. We do not understand why Lansing would expect we patients and caregivers to fund police forces to kick our doors in because they have not been properly instructed in their duty, and with every incentive to treat us as criminal, to include civil asset forfeiture. That needs to go.

 

Please do not stray from the fact that all laws that do not square with the MMMA are null and void and without effect per §7(e), “All other acts and parts of acts inconsistent with this act do not apply to the medical use of marihuana as provided for by this act.” It is most especially PA 460, which specifies storage requirements while transporting that has become problematic. While the MMMA is clear in its determination of transport and prohibits arrest, prosecution, or penalty, police and the courts nonetheless charge and prosecute patients and caregivers regularly. The upshot is that criminal pleas are taken, leaving us with misdemeanors because the cost of appeal is prohibitive. PA 512 and PA 514 are also recent and likewise delinquent. Please scrub those laws from the MCL.

 

To put these matters in perspective I offer negotiations that were held with the City of Saginaw in answer to its proposed moratorium that clearly intended to restrict medical use in the year 2010. We hold that government regulation of cannabis is pertinent, but only inasmuch as any other agricultural commodity among authorized users. We concurred that mechanical, electrical, and plumbing codes be enforced and that any business that caters to cannabis use be regulated precisely as are other brick and mortar businesses. There is no more reason to restrict medical use than there is to restrict other medicinal plants that have known therapeutic effect in the absence of harmful side effects. Treated as any other like endeavor it is the responsibility of the government to consider it as such, but nothing more and nothing less. The City abandoned the moratorium altogether and has since reported that there have been no significant adverse effects. The simple way proved best. Please consider the same.

 

SB 0660 is an irresponsible affront to patients. That it would render our access more difficult and cost unnecessarily more in order to make access prohibitive is plain. Senator Rick Jones has expressed in the media that his intention is to take it from our homes and put it in pharmacies if and when federal law permits. Not only is it speculative, but it would require an unnecessary top heavy and cumbersome bureaucracy to administer it. The State would do well to discard the bill out of hand. Specific consideration for safety is unnecessary due to the very simple means we have to ensure safety in our end use. Quality standards will not compare favorably with cannabis grown ourselves. That has been show to be true in the Canadian model, which recently abandoned home growing for a central distribution scheme. This bill is less than useless. You will not find any legitimate record of substantial harm that would require it. There are simpler and effective options rather than this.

 

We find HB 4271 a boondoggle for monied interests with little to no benefit for patients and with added unnecessary cost. Within our community of patients, and with permission to engage in patient to patient transfers strictly among ourselves, ours can be viewed a micro economy that benefits the limited number of otherwise sick and injured earning impaired people that will play into the larger macro economy. This bill would prevent that. Will you please favor us with refusal to enact it as law and instead amend the MMMA to permit the necessary accommodation?

 

HB 5104 is redundant in that the issue of the permissibility of extracts is presently before the Supreme Court. It remains to be seen whether they will agree that any medicinal extract is derived as a constituent part of the dried leaves and flowers and is a preparation thereof, which is the working definition of usable cannabis under the law. Webster's is also clear on the definition of preparation, and includes medical derivations. Other language in the bill changing the use of the term "medical use" is disingenuous and ripe for unintended consequences, if not an outright effort to further erode the law to our detriment. Please wait for the Court decision in Carruthers before you move on this issue.

Edited by GregS
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