Michigan: House Panel Approves Medical Marijuana Dispensaries, Edibles

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By Steve Elliott
Hemp News

Medical marijuana dispensaries -- declared illegal by the Michigan Supreme Court, despite a 2008 law approved by voters -- may be returning to the state under a proposal headed to the House floor.

The House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday unanimously approved bills that would update Michigan's medical marijuana law to allow safe access through dispensaries, and to allow more parts of the cannabis plant to be used in edibles, reports Jonathan Oosting at Mlive.com.

In a separate vote, the panel also approved 8-1-2 (with two Democrats passing) a proposal to create a separate "pharmaceutical-grade cannabis" designation in case the federal government ever reclassifies marijuana as a Schedule II controlled substance allowed for medical use. That actually paves the way for a possible eventual Big Pharma takeover of the medical marijuana business, according to some observers of the scene.

Cannabis is currently classified as Schedule I under federal law, meaning, by definition, that it has a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical uses, despite the fact that the federal government holds a patent -- Patent No. 663057 -- on the medical uses of cannabis.

House Bill 4271, introduced by Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) would let towns decide whether they want to allow dispensaries. The safe access points had operated in Michigan until February, when the Michigan Supreme Court said they were illegal.

The version of HB 4271 approved on Tuesday would require testing of medicinal cannabis sold through the "provisioning centers" and would prohibit them from growing marijuana, limiting them to selling only excess marijuana grown by certified caregivers or patients.

Callton said his proposal would improve patient access; he said he fine-tuned the bill with input from cities and law enforcement.

"If you get your recommendation from a doctor, instead of waiting four to six months for someone to grow plants for you -- and you may be dead by then -- you'll be able to go right away to a provisioning center and get the medicine you need," Callton said.

House Bill 5104, sponsored by Rep. Eileen Kowall, would clarify that multiple parts of the plant, including leaves, resin and extracts, can be consumed by patients. The Michigan Court of Appeals in July ruled that cannabis brownies are not a "usable form of marijuana" under the state's medical marijuana law, essentially banning edibles, tinctures and topicals. An appeal request has already been filed with the Michigan Supreme Court.

Despite their unanimous approval in committee, the bills face an uncertain future in the Legislature, which has shown more inclination to restrict the medical marijuana law than to expand it.

Senate Bill 660, already passed by the state Senate, won't have any effect unless the federal government reschedules marijuana. The new "pharmaceutical-grade cannabis" registry would not replace the state's caregiver-patient model, claimed sponsor Sen. Roger Kahn (R-Saginaw Township), but would provide patients with the "option" to access tested medicine.

Kahn worked on the bill with former state House Speaker Chuck Perricone, who -- surprise, surprise! -- now works for Prairie Plant Systems, a Canadian company which has been the primary medical marijuana provider in that country for more than a decade. Prairie Plant Systems would "likely" grow marijuana in an abandoned copper mine -- which it's already bought for the purpose, they must feel pretty confident -- in Michigan's Upper Peninsula.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) opposed that bill because it requires patients to give up their current medical marijuana authorization to gain access to the "pharmaceutical-grade" registry. This would force patients to pay another $100 fee if they changed their mind and decided to go back to the patient-caregiver model.

"I would like to not charge citizens twice for the same access to the same service," Rep. Irwin said.

(Photo: MLive.com)