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Medical Marijuana Bills Pass Michigan House, Separate House Bill Would Regulate Dispensaries

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File photo. Four bills that would clarify Michigan's medical marijuana laws passed the House on Thursday, May 3, 2012. (AP/Rick Bowmer)
File photo. Four bills that would clarify Michigan's medical marijuana laws passed the House on Thursday, May 3, 2012. (AP/Rick Bowmer)

A package of four contentious bills defining medical marijuana use passed the Michigan House Thursday and will go to the Senate.

The bills, which were written to clarify the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act passed by voters in 2008, have drawn the ire of some medical marijuana advocates, but received the necessary three-fourths majority House vote with bipartisan support, according to the Detroit Free Press.

HB 4834 would require Michigan Marijuana patients to have photo ID on their registry identification card, make the card valid for two years and privatize parts of the registration process. It would also allow law enforcement access to information about patients on the registry.

HB 4851 would offer stricter guidelines for the "bona fide physician-patient relationship" as it relates to medical marijuana use, including requiring an in-person physical examination of patients.

HB 4853 would put the penalty for selling marijuana without a proper registry identification card within the sentencing guidelines for a two-year felony.

And HB 4856 would criminalize the transportation of medical marijuana in a motor vehicle under certain conditions.

“It’s about protecting a sick patient,” Rep. Ken Horn (R-Frankenmuth), a co-sponsor of the package, said of the reforms back in March. "They have the right [to medical marijuana use] under the law, so we're going to make sure they feel safe in their own state."

Attorney Matt Abel specializes in marijuana law and is the campaign director for Committee for a Safer Michigan, a group working to legalize marijuana in Michigan. He is troubled by the access to patient's personal information that HB 4834 gives police officers using the Law Enforcement Information Network (LEIN).

"The access to the LEIN system by name and address is going to cause all kinds of problems," he said. "There were people who were assured their information was confidential."

Although he believes HB 4853 is fair because it applies a consistent standard for two year offenses, he thinks HB 4851 and HB 4856 single out the medical marijuana community for targeted regulation.

"It would prevent a medical marijuana patient from carrying it on their person, but they can carry their Vicodin on their person," he said of HB 4856.

Earlier this week, Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) introduced a different bill addressing medical marijuana to the House. HB 5580 would regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and provisioning centers to ensure they are safe and clean.

"Since medical marijuana became legal in Michigan, dispensaries are popping up left and right and we need to make sure these places pass the grandma test," Callton said in a release. "If you wouldn't feel safe having your grandma go to one of these places to pick up her medical marijuana, as if she went to a pharmacy, then it needs to be cleaned up or closed down."

The bill would also mandate that marijuana could not be consumed at dispensaries or provisioning centers, only sold; provide for local control; and allow caregivers to sell excess products to dispensaries. It would also prohibit centers from setting up shop within 1,000 feet of schools. HB 5580 must now be considered by the House Judiciary Committee to go forward.

Abel said there's a lot to like about Callton's bill, but added that he had some concerns about its 90-day record-keeping requirements for transactions. He thinks it may open the door for raids by federal agents. A memo released by the U.S. Department of Justice last year that said that state laws do not protect patients from federal prosecution.

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