The debate over reviving medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan starts up again in Lansing this week. A state Senate panel will hear public testimony on House Bill 4271, which would let communities decide whether to allow dispensaries and how to regulate them. It is also expected to take up House Bill 5104, which would allow patients to use edible and other non-smokable forms of cannabis.
The bills come in response to recent Michigan Supreme Court rulings that shut down marijuana distribution through dispensaries in the state and effectively outlawed any forms of medical cannabis other than smokable forms.
Supporters of the legislation say reviving and regulating dispensaries will ensure patients have safe and consistent access to treatment. And they say patients who are children or who suffer from respiratory illnesses should not have to smoke marijuana.
"This is about making sure that those people with cancer, AIDS, seizure disorders are getting medicine that is safe and clean and tested on a regular, consistent basis, so that they can do proper dosaging, so that their doctors know that they're consuming a safe product," said Robin Schneider with the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA), which advocates for medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
"I think that that's why we're seeing the broad bipartisan support, because this is not about bringing back the dispensaries," said Schneider. "This is about regulating, very carefully, the distribution and making sure that patients have non-smokable marijuana so they're not just smoking marijuana." Schneider says she believes support for the legislation is growing in the Senate.
Just last week, Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said on the Senate floor that he has "no problem" with the concept of allowing state registered patients to use non-smokable forms of marijuana. Jones has been a consistent foe of medical marijuana advocates in recent years.
The bills cleared the state House late last year with overwhelming bipartisan support. But Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville says he is concerned allowing medical marijuana dispensaries could lead to more pot getting in the hands of children. Richardville chairs the committee that will be debating the legislation this week.
For more information: http://legislature.mi.gov/doc.aspx?2013-HB-4271