LANSING, Mich. — State lawmakers on Wednesday began laying the groundwork for the production and sale of marijuana from Michigan pharmacies, contingent on the federal government also deciding to reclassify the drug as a medical treatment.
Legislation approved 22-16 by the Senate would create a second medical marijuana system in a state whose voters legalized the drug for medical purposes five years ago.
Supporters said the 129,000 residents now allowed to smoke pot to treat cancer and other illnesses could continue growing their own or buying it from nearly 27,000 licensed caregivers. If the bill becomes law and federal agencies reclassify marijuana as a Schedule 2 drug, patients could stick with the current system or give up their cannabis card and apply for an “enhanced” one allowing them to obtain the drug from pharmacies.
To get a card, the patient could not have been convicted of a drug offense, would have to surrender his or her ID card issued under the existing law and be at least 18 years old. Suppliers and participating pharmacies would undergo annual inspections.
“It’s a straightforward bill that seeks to treat medical marijuana like other drugs or at least offer that option to our people — one that will ensure safe and secure production followed by testing to protect seriously ill people who consume it,” said Sen. Roger Kahn, a Saginaw Township Republican and practicing physician who is sponsoring the bill headed to the House.
Among the measure’s backers is Prairie Plant Systems Inc., which supplies medical marijuana to the Canadian government and is interested in growing the product in Michigan.
The vote was mostly along party lines, with majority Republicans supporting the bill and Democrats opposing it. One Democrat and five Republican switched over.
Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer said the legislation would do nothing to make marijuana more accessible for patients, some who have struggled to obtain it after authorities and courts slammed the door on marijuana dispensaries.
“Shouldn’t we spend our time and taxpayer resources fixing the current system rather than streamlining it for a potential corporation that’s out of state based on a contingency?” the East Lansing Democrat said. “This issue is not ripe and it is not worthy of our time and resources until we’ve addressed the problem that our residents are facing.”
Whitmer unsuccessfully tried to tie the bill to one in the House that would authorize marijuana shops and a Senate bill that would make possession of small amounts of pot a civil infraction, not a crime. She noted that voters in Ferndale, Jackson and Lansing approved proposals last week offering some legal protection to users of small amounts of marijuana.
Michigan’s marijuana law says people with certain illnesses, such as cancer or chronic pain, can possess up to 2.5 ounces of “usable” marijuana and keep up to 12 plants in a locked place. A caregiver also can provide marijuana to as many as five people.
Sen. Rick Jones, a Grand Ledge Republican, said he has no problem with seriously ill patients using marijuana but called the existing law a “sham” because, he says, healthy people are getting marijuana cards.
“It’s time to get marijuana out of houses and put it somewhere else,” he said. “Let pharmaceutical companies grow it — not just one company but multiple companies. Put it in the pharmacies. That’s where it belongs.”
Senate Bill 660: http://1.usa.gov/1bfTBmL
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