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Where Are The Bills Now, And What Will It Take To Advance Them?

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LANSING- Positive legislation favoring Michigan’s 150,000 registered medical marijuana patients and caregivers has been hard to come by- and even harder to advance. The Planet Green Trees Radio Show (PGT) explored the stoppage of debate on two medical marijuana bills in the Michigan Senate- HB 4271, the Provisioning centers Act, and HB 5104, commonly referred to as The Concentrates Bill.

“We are actually having meetings (last week) with Randy Richardville, the Senate leader’s staff, and also (Senator) Rick Jones. He would be an important person; if we can work out some concerns he has and get him on board, that will help it push through the Senate,” said Representative Michael Callton, R-Nashville, on the May 22nd edition of the weekly news and information talk radio program. 

In a personal conversation with TCC, Robin Schneider of the National Patients Rights Association revealed that the scheduled meeting did not take place, but there was interest in rescheduling the meeting.

The Provisioning Centers Act would allow communities to welcome medical marijuana distribution centers, known as dispensaries or the proposed term Provisioning Centers, but The Concentrates Bill would allow already-registered marijuana patients to use marijuana through methods not exclusive to smoking. Current case law in Michigan has outlawed the possession or use of oils, topical applications and most foodstuffs, even though they were widely used for four years prior to the disputed court decision.

That doesn’t sit well with Jim and Erin Powers. The couple has a son who is one of the approx. 50 pediatric marijuana patients in Michigan, and they need the legality of those alternate forms of medication restored immediately. Recently the couple wrote a letter to Sen. Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, that contained this quote:


Our family and many others desperately need Senator Richardville and the Government Operations Committee’s support and urgent action on both of these bills. Living in fear of our son’s condition degrading is a reality that we will always have to deal with; we should not have to additionally live in fear of arrest or losing custody of our son. This was our last resort and we are running out of time.

The Senate slowdown is more frustrating because of the wide bipartisan support the two bills had in the Michigan House of Representatives. HB 5104 and HB 4271 passed with strong majorities- more than 3/4 of the House voted YES on both bills. Those results don’t seem to impress Richardville, who is the single person solely in control of the future of the lifesaving legislation; the bills came to his Committee in December and have hadonly one hearing since then.

The PGT program can boast that it’s on-air staff contains two people that contributed to the creation of the bill back in 2011, when it was first introduced by Callton and was supported by the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC). Jamie Lowell of 3rd Coast Compassion in Ypsilanti is the show’s Producer and was a Board Member of MACC; Rick Thompson is the News Director for the program, and was the Public Relations Director for MACC. Both men expressed frustration at the lack of speed in advancing the bills during the program.

“In terms of this bill… do you see it as being prioritized?” asked PGT host, attorney Michael Komorn.

“Well yeah,” replied Callton, “and there’s two reasons I would say it’s prioritized. Number one, you’re seeing dispensaries being closed and we need to get some sort of legal protection for dispensaries so they can stay open and not have to worry. The second thing that makes it more urgent is we’re approaching summer recess and there’s not that many session days.”

“If this bill doesn’t get completely through by December we have to start all over again, and I don’t want to do that. I want to win it now. Get this bill in now.”

When asked what Rick Jones might ask for during those negotiations, Callton projected Jones’ complaints as, “What can we do to make sure a dispensary is not a criminal enterprise and that it is serving valid patients,” Callton listed. “One of the biggest concerns I think Rick Jones has is that he feels most people that have a medical marijuana card he feels are recreational users. I think he told me he felt 80% were.”

While admitting that there may be some people that game the system Callton said that number seemed “flipped around” and estimated it to be “less than 20%.” He added, ”I don’t think that’s a choice that police make, that’s a choice doctors make. Doctors write those prescriptions…

“I think we have to do with him like we did with the Committee,” Callton opined. “When it went through the Judiciary Committee in the House there were a lot of people that said they were going to vote no, because they had that belief that a lot of people were recreational users. By the time there was testimony from our experts and by the time that families came and brought their children and people testified what this was doing to help their health, too help their child’s health, to halt their seizures, their appetite… Once that testimony was heard and was all over, the Committee voted 11 – 0 to run the bill forward.  And there were people that were hard-nosed at first.”

Once anyone watches this they are extremely compelled to be for it (medical marijuana).”

That plan seems dubious, considering we’ve already seem testimony of that nature delivered to both House and Senate Committees and Sen. Jones remains unconvinced. Unfortunately there is no opportunity to air that testimony to Sen. Jones directly because he does not sit on the Senate Government Operations Committee, where the bill is being debated. Since Senator Jones’ input on changes to HB 4271 is being taken this week in a Senate meeting, per Rep. Callton, those working with the legislature in support of the bill as it stands may have to weather the issues raised by the powerful Republican.

“It is assumed in my bill that dispensaries are going to make a profit, and that they are businesses, and it will sit in a business district or in an industrial district.”

“I don’t see where they can second-guess a doctor’s prescription, or a recommendation, for medical marijuana. I don’t see where it would be law enforcement’s place to second-guess what a doctor decides. I am a chiropractor, I see a lot of people in here that are young, that look completely fine, but they have terrible back pain. You can’t see it. It’s under the skin,” Callton explained. “You can’t see that damaged disc, you can’t see that chronic painful back problem by just looking at the person , they look young and healthy so someone that is in law enforcement may look at this person and assume,  ’well, they’re just a recreational user (of marijuana),’ but that isn’t so.”

Tim Beck, leader of the Safer Michigan Coalition, expressed similar sentiment during the same broadcast. “You’ve got to be brutally pragmatic sometimes to get things done… sometimes, yeah you do, you have to cut deals sometimes in order to get change but again you keep pecking away at it, little by little, but eventually the flood gates open and you win.”

Schneider said she agreed with Callton’s sense of optimism. “I am confident, too,” she told Komorn during the same broadcast. “We didn’t come this far to quit now. We’re going to take it all the way home.”

Even without being passed and written into law, Callton feels the bills have made positive progress. 

“I think it has cleared some of the brush so that other bills related to it can come through easier. Like these hemp bills, they are coming through today easy because it’s not a taboo subject anymore.” He’s referring to a pair of bills that would establish hemp-based research in Michigan- and remove the commercial farm product from the list of controlled substances where hemp’s big brother, marijuana, languishes. Those bills passed the Michigan House by votes of 109 – 0 and 108 – 1; just like HB 4271 and HB 5104, they have yet to come before a Senate Committee for debate.  



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Sec. 3.(1)All meetings of a public body shall be open to the public and shall be held in a place available
to the general public.

(3) All deliberations of a public body constituting a quorum of its members shall take place at a meeting open to the public except as provided in this section and sections 7 and 8.


unless the 'body' and quorum thing is where i misunderstood this.

maybe 3 members isnt a quorum.

Edited by t-pain
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when you meet a legislator, typically it is you and the legislator's staff person or the staff person and the legislator.  in those situations it must not invoke the meeting clause, cause I have been in many many of that nature, and I assure you they are not open to the public.  When you talk of "a public body" I believe it means the chamber or committee, I do not believe it applies in private meetings.  They have a quorum number of "members" needed to do business in both the committee and the chamber.  I believe that is where this comes into play.

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