Bill would ban medical pot clubs

Medical marijuana users might be out of a public place to toke up if a bill introduced to the state Senate last week becomes law.

The bill, introduced by state Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, would ban the formation of medical marijuana bars and clubs.

It would not apply to what commonly are referred to as compassion clubs, where current or potential medical marijuana users congregate to discuss issues such as how to obtain a permit for cannabis cultivation or use.

Rather, Jones said the bill seeks to stop “on-premises smoking.” That means medical marijuana users would be barred from smoking the product at a dispensary or location they might drive from after smoking. Smoking at a private residence would not be prohibited by the bill.

“If a dispensary is going to dispense, that’s fine,” Jones said. “(But) take the prescription home, don’t use it at the premises and drive away.”

The bill would not amend the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008, a ballot proposal passed by 63 percent of voters, but would amend a law from 1978 that governs numerous aspects of public health policy.

In explaining the background of the bill, Jones referenced an incident from summer 2010 where television cameras took footage of medical marijuana users smoking pot outside a Williamston, Mich., dispensary, then driving away after use. That dispensary subsequently was raided by police.

“You cannot drive under the influence of marijuana and other drugs, not even a little bit,” Jones said, adding even those who walk to and from their destinations put themselves at risk.

Despite being less than a week since its introduction, the bill has raised the ire of a statewide pro-marijuana group.

Rev. Steve Thompson, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said Jones is wrongly tampering with provisions of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

Thompson said the Williamston incident is regrettable, but argued such activities already are banned under the 2008 law.

“The law speaks for itself and does not need to be tampered with,” Thompson said. “They’re all crying foul and saying this law is poorly written. This law was written in the broadest and simplest of words in order to protect us from people … changing our law in any shape or form.”

Jones said the law’s broad nature means legislators need to clarify some of its aspects.

“We’re not trying to ban dispensaries in this bill,” Jones said. “We’re simply trying to stop people from consuming on premises.”

It is unclear when the bill will be taken up by the Senate. It has been referred to the Senate’s Health Policy Committee, and the committee’s chairman, state Sen. Jim Marleau, R-Lake Orion, has not yet scheduled a meeting this week, aide Ryan Burtka said.

Meetings do not necessarily have to be scheduled until 24 hours before they are set to take place, he said. The committee typically meets on Thursdays.

In any case, Katie Carey, spokeswoman for Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, said Whitmer “looks forward to reviewing any legislation that provides public safety to the citizens of Michigan.”

via : The State News

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