Changes to Michigan’s medical marijuana law passed by legislators early Friday morning will create more hurdles and uncertainty for medical marijuana patients, two Kalamazoo-area professionals said Friday.
“The overall impact of these bills will be to increase the fear and uncertainty among patients who are legally certified to use medical marijuana and who are already made to feel like criminals,” said Dr. David Crocker of Michigan Holistic Health, whose practice has offices in Kalamazoo and other West Michigan cities.
“Passing the bills at 4 a.m. undermines my confidence that these legislators are serving the people of Michigan who overwhelmingly approved this program four years ago.”
The bills further clarify and add restrictions to the 2008 medical marijuana law, including how people can get medical marijuana cards and who can become a caregiver. MLive’s Melissa Anders reports HB 4834 requires a driver’s license or state ID card to obtain medical marijuana patient registration cards, extends the card’s expiration from one to two years, and attempts to address a backlog of card applications by calling for the state to contract with a private company to help process and issue registration cards.
HB 4851 adds conditions for a “bona fide physician-patient relationship,” which is required for medical marijuana cardholders. It also clarifies how marijuana plants must be enclosed, and forbids anyone from becoming a caregiver (or provider of medical marijuana) if they’ve been convicted of a felony in the past 10 years or have ever been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs or an assaultive crime.
Another bill, HB 4853, lays out sentencing guidelines. HB 4856 regulates the transportation of medical marijuana in cars.
Yet another bill headed to the governor specifies that medical marijuana expenses do not have to be covered by worker’s compensation or auto insurance benefits.
John Targowski, a Kalamazoo-based attorney who represents people in the medical marijuana industry, acknowledged some changes clarify that marijuana can be grown outdoors in certain circumstances and clarify that patient and caregiver cards now are valid for two years instead of one.
Most of the changes, however, will create more problems in courtrooms for credible medical marijuana users, he said.
“It may embolden local prosecutors to prosecute more cases, as tactically some prosecutions will be easier to mount and win against a given law enforcement-citizen encounter involving medical marijuana,” he said.
The changes also create more roadblocks for a patient to claim immunity from arrest and prosecution, Targowski said.
Crocker said the laws “over-regulate and complicate” the state’s medical marijuana program.
“These bills open the door to the anti-democratic process of selective enforcement, while reducing patient privacy,” Crocker said. “The state board will now be asked by law enforcement to confirm whether legal patients have a card or not.”
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