Six Marijuana Bills In Michigan’s Legislature
03 Nov, 2013
Five bills are already introduced; one is circulating in Lansing, awaiting final approval before being introduced. 2013 is a busy session for Michigan lawmakers bent on protecting or punishing marijuana consumers
by Rick Thompson for The Compassion Chronicles
FLINT- Marijuana is a big topic nationally, and Michigan is caught up in the enthusiasm to evolve marijuana laws from prohibitive lockdowns to a cautious expansion for medicinal and recreational use.
2011′s Walsh Bills, a package of 9 bills aimed at restricting the rights of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients, were eventually pared down to 4 bills before they were rushed through the legislature in a single night’s voting frenzy. Those bills eventually made certifying a medical marijuana patient more difficult and created new ways for police to penalize licensed marijuana patients.
The 2013 crop of bills contain a diverse field of marijuana-related subjects, including empowering recreational use and protecting medical patients from a new, incomprehensible definition of ‘usable marijuana’ handed down by the very anti-cannabis Michigan Court of Appeals. A proposed bill addressing the industrial hemp issue is bouncing around Lansing, too.
These bills are proposed at a turning point in the tide of marijuana acceptance, locally and nationally. Polls indicate approval of medical and recreational marijuana programs are at an all-time high- and the numbers are still rising. Facing an inevitable push toward societal acceptance of marijuana consumption, some legislators are rushing to cash in on the new wave of pot progress- and some are still clinging to the last vestiges of an outdated prohibitionist system.
Michigan is a perfect 11-0 in accepting ballot proposals offering marijuana law reform to the people, both statewide and in individual municipality elections. 2012 saw five cities relax restrictions on licensed medical and unlicensed recreational marijuana use; this year, three more cities will offer a recreational option to their voters. Lansing, Jackson and Ferndale will all vote on legal marijuana use within city limits on private property by adults 21 and over during 2013′s November 5th vote.
Here is a summary of the bills being considered and proposed in Michigan.
DECRIMINALIZATION OF MARIJUANA POSSESSION
Name: HB 4623 and also, SB 626
Sponsors: Reps. Jeff Irwin , Phil Cavanagh, Mike Shirkey,
Sen. Coleman Young Jr
This bill amends the Public Health Code simply removes the criminal penalties for possessing one ounce or less of marijuana and replaces it with a civil infraction. Similar to the law that has successfully ruled in Ann Arbor for decades, the civil infraction comes with the loss of cannabis and a $25 fine for the first offense and either $50 or $100 for subsequent offenses. Irwin’s bill was introduced on April 24, and Young’s Senate version was published on October 16.
On October 23, 2013, a marijuana decriminalization bill was introduced in District of Columbia which enjoys the support of the Mayor and 10 of the 13 Councilpersons. In an editorial, the Washington Post wrote, “That debate does not need to be resolved to conclude that maintaining criminal penalties for small-time users of any race doesn’t make sense.”
Decriminalization exists in one form or another in more than half of the United States; in some states individual cities have altered their laws and in others, like Alaska and many New England states, decrim is in place for every resident.
DEFINING USABLE FORMS OF MARIJUANA
Name: HB 5104
Sponsors: Reps. Eileen Kowall , Shirkey, Callton, Goike, Daley, Crawford, Irwin, McMillin, Cavanagh, LaVoy, Lipton, Geiss, Bumstead, Singh, Switalski and Barnett
A recent Court of Appeals decision created a definition of “usable marijuana” that was not consistent with common practice within Michigan’s 5-year old medical marijuana community. The Court stripped away the MMA’s protections for patients who use topical creams and oils, foodstuffs and liquid medications containing cannabis.
The bill adds “plant resins and extracts” to the definition contained within the MMA. The carrier medium (brownie mix or the inert portions of a lotion) would no longer be counted against the medical marijuana patient when determining their legally-allowed weight limit of 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Currently, a 2 ounce brownie that contains 3 grams of cannabis is considered by cops and courts as 2 ounces of cannabis.
Arizona and Montana have had similar issues regarding definition of usable marijuana. Rep. Kowall has stated that her bill was inspired by patients visiting her office with their children, explaining how non-smoking, alternative delivery methods are crucial to the health of their pediatric marijuana patients.
ESTABLISHING A DISTRIBUTION SYSTEM FOR MEDICAL MARIJUANA
Name: HB 4271 The Provisioning Centers Act
Sponsors: Reps. Mike Callton,
Formerly known as the “Local Option Bill,” this legislation would allow communities to create dispensaries- or prevent them from opening- which would distribute medical marijuana to those people who the State has determined to be eligible for use. It would protect the businesses and the communities from legal or law enforcement action by county or state-level agents.
This is, without a doubt, the most contentious issue facing the Michigan medical marijuana community today. Exacerbating the negatives is the office of Rep. Callton, who has consistently offered versions of the bill which do not meet community standards for testing and caregiver involvement. Callton has conducted a series of fundraisers styled as “stakeholder meetings” where participants have to pay to attend and the desired audience are commercial interests instead of the patients, caregivers and loved ones who would be most affected by the new regulations.
Callton’s bill has been positively influenced by the actions of the National Patient’s Rights Association, an industry-based group who maintains a Lansing lobbyist and has conducted free-to-everyone seminars on the nature of the local option and how home-based cultivation experts can supply the Centers with the cannabis they need to help patients. The bill is stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, where Callton has said committee leader Rep. Cotter and other Republicans are demanding concessions before agreeing to bring the bill up for debate or a vote.
Name: HB 5081
Sponsors: Rep. Tom McMillin, Rose Mary C. Robinson, Douglas A Geiss, Harvey Santana, Jeff Irwin, Joel Johnson, Mike Callton, Frank Foster, Martin Howrylak
5 republicans and 4 Democrats have sponsored the bill to require reporting for asset forfeiture in Michigan- and boy, do we need it. A recent article reminded Michiganders that our state received a D- rating for forfeiture fairness; the proposed bill would create transparency in the process.
Forfeiture happens before a person is convicted of a crime, and the police do not have to make a connection between an illegal act and the acquisition of the property in question. Take the case of Edward Schmeiding;given probation by a federal judge for cultivating marijuana on his property, authorities are kicking the couple (in their 60′s) off the family farm via forfeiture.
Other examples of Michigan forfeiture abuse include the seizure of a 70-year old’s $3 million businesses and accounts totaling over $2 million, even though the drug operation they cited as the reason for the raid was not real. A second example includes the seizure of $35,000 from a Fraser grocery store owner for allegedly making improper bank account deposits, although the grocer’s actions were correctly performed under insurance regulations.
PRAIRIE PLANT SYSTEMS BILL
Name: SB 0660
Sponsors: Sens. Roger Kahn, Randy
This is a resurrection of last year’s failed effort to bring marijuana distribution under the control of pharmacists. Notable in this year’s version is the absence of Sen. Rick Jones’ name on the bill. Jones is a longtime marijuana law reform foe and a co-sponsor of last year’s version.
This is the only bill proposed to adjust Michigan’s marijuana laws that does not enjoy bipartisan sponsorship. Canadian marijuana cultivation powerhouse Prairie Plant Systems has been lobbying Lansing to eliminate the current home-based medical marijuana cultivation system and replace it with a limited production from 10 greenhouses. This was originally proposed by Kahn in 2009; since then Prairie has taken countless Representatives and Senators on tours of their underground gardens in Michigan and their expansive marijuana farms in Canada.
This series of all-expense-paid trips has maintained Republican support for their model of commercialized cultivation and distribution through pharmacies. Rep. Callton, sponsor of the Provisioning Centers Act, just announced he will be given the full Prairie Plant Systems Canadian tour in November. Callton and some of his staff members were previously given the Michigan tour of the herb gardens in Michigan’s old abandoned mines; some of the Prairie Plant dictated-regulations, including testing for heavy metals, have previously found their way into the Representative’s marijuana proposals.
Although the legalization of industrial, non-intoxicating hemp has not been introduced yet, insiders tell TCC that it’s only a matter of time before a bill is put forth. There are “several versions of bills circulating around Lansing,” says Steven Sharpe. Sharpe is a board member of the Michigan branch of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and one of the architects of the ballot proposal to legalize marijuana use, possession and transfer in Jackson, Michigan. That issue will be settled by the voters on November 5th.
Sharpe revealed that his lobbying has shown “bipartisan support” for a measure to enable Michigan farmers to cultivate industrial hemp, a version of the marijuana plant that was used for centuries to create textiles, medicines, fuel and food. Hemp has been mentioned as a solution for the fallow fields that pervade the Michigan countryside and as a contributing factor in revitalizing Detroit’s brownfields and unused properties.