Michigan Bill Would Allow Medical Marijuana Dispensaries


Michigan Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville) introduced a bill to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries

A proposal introduced in the Michigan House last week would legalize medical marijuana dispensaries, an issue not clarified in the law enacted following voter approval of a 2008 ballot initiative to allow use of cannabis for medical purposes.

The bill, HB 5580, the Medical Marihuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act, was introduced by state Rep. Mike Callton (R-Nashville), reports Christopher Behnan at the Daily Press & Argus. It will legalize cannabis dispensaries but allow local governments to prohibit them in their communities outright, or regulate their number and location.

Rep. Callton, a chiropractor, said his bill fixes multiple gray areas in the existing medical marijuana law, including no listed qualifications for caregivers, who cultivate cannabis for medical marijuana patients.

Michigan Capitol Confidential
Rep. Mike Callton: “I really think what the voters passed, they wanted compassionate care of certain classes of individuals, but this is not the way to do it”

The law says caregivers can grow up to 12 plants per patient for a maximum of five patients, and have a maximum of 2.5 ounces of marijuana on hand for each patient.
Callton claimed after he toured existing dispensaries that many of the facilities had violated the law with such practices as allowing smoking marijuana inside.
He said most caregivers do not have the medical background necessary to care for medicinal cannabis patients.
“I really think what the voters passed, they wanted compassionate care of certain classes of individuals, but this is not the way to do it,” Callton said.
Callton said his bill would prohibit anyone with felony convictions from working inside or operating dispensaries. The bill would also require all potential dispensary employees to undergo background checks.
Callton said he became convinced his dispensary proposal was needed after meeting a 75-year-old woman who takes an oral form of marijuana to relieve symptoms related to Parkinson’s disease.
The law doesn’t allow the state of supply patients with seeds or starter plants, or to give advice on how to cultivate medical cannabis.
The 75-year-old doesn’t want to grow her own plants, and can’t find a caregiver to grow them for her, Callton said. A legalized dispensary could give her access in a safe environment, he said, as if she were shopping in a drug store.
“That’s how safe these provisioning centers should be,” Callton said. “That’s how professional these places should be.”
But Denise Pollicella, business attorney for the now-defunct Marshall Alternatives medical marijuana dispensary in Handy Township, which was raided twice last year, said she was concerned that the bill could lead to local governments exceeding the authority the proposal would give them.
Pollicella said the bills’s wording spells out what local governments can do, but it doesn’t specify that they can’t make stricter rules.
“It’s giving them the opportunity to adopt ordinances or more rules that conflict with the statute,” she said.
But Pollicella also said the bill is a step in the right direction toward a safer medical marijuana policy.
Callton’s proposal runs counter to the views of notoriously anti-marijuana Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who in December filed lawsuits in Ingham and Jackson counties seeking to shut down three dispensaries. Atty. Gen. Schuette has said the shops were “public nuisances operating in violation of state law.”
Callton said he’s aware his position conflicts with that of the Republican attorney general. He said that he’s also had trouble getting co-sponsors for his bill in an election year.
“I’m sure Schuette won’t like this, but it’s Schuette’s job to enforce the law,” Callton said. “It’s my job to make laws.”
Separate legislation already passed in the House last week would require a better-documented patient-doctor relationship and prohibit transportation of medical marijuana unless it is enclosed in a case, among a host of other proposed tweaks to the law.