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Committee Meeting On 5104 And 4271

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Michigan medical marijuana patients, families speak out in support of dispensary, edible bills


LANSING, MI -- It wasn't the cancer. It was the weight loss that finally led Montrose Mayor Ray Foust to seek out medical marijuana for his dying niece.


Roughly five years ago, Foust drove her 80 miles to a clinic in Southfield, where doctors ran her through a series of tests, certified her for medical marijuana use and gave her five cannabis capsules to try on her way out.


His niece, who had lost her appetite due to chemotherapy, popped one of the pills and saw immediate results. "Let's pull into Wendy's," she told her uncle on the drive home. "I'm hungry."


Foust, testifying before the Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee on Tuesday, offered support for bills that would allow for the return of medical marijuana dispensaries and edible marijuana products in the wake of state court rulings that limited the legality of each.


The small-town mayor told lawmakers that he registered as a caregiver for his niece under Michigan's voter-approved medical marijuana law but found it too time consuming to grow the drug himself. Instead, he continued driving to Southfield each month, picking up medication for his niece until he and other city council members approved a local dispensary in Montrose.


"I call it a safe transfer center," Foust said. "I don't see why anybody would have to go to some low-life place to get a medicine … We don't want 10 distributors down the line. We don't want to be known as the medical marijuana capital. We want people to be able to get their medicine. That's all."


House Bill 4271, sponsored by state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), would give local communities the power to allow, prohibit or limit medical marijuana "provisioning centers." The regulated dispensaries could not operate within 1,000 feet of a school, could only sell products tested for safety and could not allow use on the premises.


A 2013 Michigan Supreme Court ruling allowed county prosecutors to shut down unregulated dispensaries that had popped up around the state. Many businesses simply closed up shop before law enforcement stepped in.


House Bill 5104, sponsored by state Rep. Eileen Kowall (R-White Lake), would expand the definition of usable medical marijuana to allow for non-smokable forms of the drug, including edibles, tinctures and topical creams. Many patients would rather not smoke, Kowall said, but a Michigan Court of Appeals ruling essentially limited their options.


Both medical marijuana bills passed the House by wide margins in December, but the Senate has been slow to act. Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, took testimony on the bills Tuesday but did not hold a vote.


The Michigan State Police worked on the edibles bill but opposes it as written because of labeling language and concerns that an officer may not be able to determine how much marijuana is in any given product. MSP also is concerned that dispensaries would have to operate as cash-only businesses because of federal rules, making them potential targets for criminals.


Eric Pessle, environmental health division director for the Kent County Health Department, also testified against the dispensary bill, which would also allow provisioning centers to prepare and sell edible products. The legislation would require local inspections, but Pessle said that dispensaries preparing food should be subject to the same state-level requirements as traditional kitchens.


The majority of the testimony was supportive, however, with several registered patients describing success with the drug and difficulty obtaining it from a registered caregiver, whose numbers are on the decline.


"This is really about dignity," said John Targowski, a criminal defense attorney from Kalamazoo who uses medical marijuana to treat symptoms stemming from a severe spinal cord injury. "Dignity for patients who throughout 2009 and 2010 had legitimate, safe access to marijuana. Our appellate courts in Michigan have narrowly interpreted the Medical Marihuana Act…and that's not what we voted for."


Jonathan Oosting is a Capitol reporter for MLive Media Group. Email him, find him on Google+ or follow him on Twitter.

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Author: Kathleen Gray, Detroit Free Press Lansing Bureau

Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?275 (Cannabis - Michigan)

Bookmark: http://www.mapinc.org/find?253 (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)




LANSING -- The fate of a pair of bills easing Michigan's medical marijuana law still is uncertain after 90 minutes of testimony Tuesday from both supporters and opponents of the legislation.


The two House bills would legalize the manufacture and sale of medical marijuana-infused products -- such as brownies and oils -- and permit communities to allow and regulate marijuana dispensaries in their towns.


They already have passed the House and are now being considered in the Senate Government Operations Committee.


The Michigan State Police and local health departments opposed the bills, saying there is no way to forensically determine the amount of marijuana in infused products. And health departments said the dispensaries, which could also act as manufacturers of pot-infused products, weren't covered by health and safety regulations like other businesses such as bakeries.


"We have no way to test for presence of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) and separate that out from other ingredients," said State Police Sgt. Amy Dehner. "So if you have 2 pounds of brownies, you have 2 pounds of marijuana."


Supporters, including many medical marijauana cardholders, said the legislation was necessary for their health and well-being.


Roy Foust of Montrose said his cancer-stricken niece was able to maintain a quality of life with medical marijuana pills in the last year of her life.


"Every month, I had to drive the three hours to Southfield to get her medicine. I drove because I don't know how to grow it," he said. "We just want to have some control in our communities. We don't want to be the marijuana capital of the state."


The two bills -- HB 5104 and HB 4271 -- would:


- Allow for the manufacture and sale of marijuana-infused products, such as brownies and oils. These products help medical marijuana users, especially children, who have a hard time smoking the cannabis.


- Let communities determine whether they want medical marijuana dispensaries, called provisioning centers, to operate in their communities, and allow the communities to regulate them. The bill also requires testing of the cannabis and limits involvement of felons in the provisioning centers.


The approach favored by the Senate, ultimately passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Rick Snyder in December, was a bill that would allow pharmacies to dispense medical marijuana. But the bill would take effect only if the federal government changed the designation of marijuana from an illegal controlled substance to a legal prescription drug. There is no indication that the federal government is prepared to do that anytime soon.


Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, who chairs the Government Operations Committee, isn't expected to hold another hearing on the bills for at least a couple of weeks.


Since Michigan voters passed the medical marijuana act in 2008 by a 63%-37% margin, more than 100,000 people have been certified to use medical marijuana for a variety of ailments. More than 50,000 have become licensed caregivers, although that number slipped to 27,046 in the last year.


After the law passed, several dozen dispensaries opened around the state, but the Court of Appeals ruled that the dispensaries weren't allowed under the 2008 law. Since then, medical marijuana users and their caregivers have had to rely on growing their own plants to get their medicine.

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