Medical marijuana patients would no longer be allowed to smoke pot in support groups under a bill approved by a Republican-led Michigan Senate committee on Thursday. The bill would ban medical marijuana bars and clubs that have sprung up in the state since voters, by a wide margin, legalized cannabis for medicinal purposes in 2008.
The legislation now advances to the floor for a vote by the entire Senate, reports The Associated Press
The legislation defines “clubs and bars” as places where medical marijuana is used in a group setting for a fee. Violations would be punishable by up to 90 days in jail and fines of up to $500.
“There’s really no good reason for people to gather and consume marijuana,” Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) claimed.
Jones claimed that people who gather to smoke cannabis away from their homes could easily become a danger on the roadways, saying that people using medical marijuana “shouldn’t be driving right after they use it.”
Marijuana club owners said they provide a key service and that the support group experience is good for patients who sometimes feel as if they are struggling alone against illness.
Medical marijuana supporter Greg Pawlowski told lawmakers at the hearing that the bill is an attempt to stifle the voices of patients, reports Laura Weber at Interlochen Public Radio
“I applaud you so much for taking the time to talk to us, but now you need to hear what we have to say, and not talk amongst each other that we’re wrong,” Pawlowski said. “Because this is not an issue of being right or wrong; this is a human issue. I should not have to be a second-class citizen and have to have a patient card.”
Court cases involving clubs are pending and could set precedents for how the establishments are allowed to operate under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.