Michigan’s Republican-led Senate is considering a plan to create a new system for regulating and distributing medical marijuana. Legislation introduced by Sen. Roger Kahn and co-sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville seeks to reclassify medical marijuana, license facilities to grow the drug and distribute it through authorized pharmacies. The system, which would require federal approval before it could be implemented, would treat marijuana as a Schedule II drug, similar to OxyContin or Percocet.
“Marijuana, if it’s to be medical marijuana, should be held to the standard of medical safety and of dosage predictability,” said Kahn, R-Saginaw Township. Senate Bill 660 would not replace or change Michigan’s voter-approved medical marijuana law, according to Kahn, but it would create an independent “pharmaceutical-grade cannabis” registry. Patients and caregivers certified to use or grow plants under current law could continue to do so, but those who want to be part of the pharmaceutical registry would have to surrender their old cards and would not be authorized to grow or distribute the drug.
The Senate Government Operations approved the measure in a 3-0 vote, sending it to the full Senate for consideration. Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer, D-East Lansing, did not vote on the bill, indicating she was uncomfortable supporting a proposal contingent upon future approval from the federal government. Richardville, R-Monroe, said he generally supports medical marijuana but does not think voters got what they bargained for when they approved the current law in 2008.
“There are people out there growing things irresponsibly and people getting sick because of it,” he told reporters earlier Tuesday. “It’s getting into school yards and school kids hands. I wouldn’t call that a system. I would call that a problem.” Rick Thompson, a magazine publisher with the Michigan chapter of Americans For Safe Access, said allegations of tainted medical marijuana leading to sickness are “a smoke screen” for an attempt to undermine the patient-caregiver system that allows certified residents to grow their own. “Cannabis never killed anyone in Michigan, and we’ve had the law for five years,” Thompson said. “There’s been no testing, but yet there have been no illnesses.”
Under the newly-proposed system, the Michigan Department of Community Health would be tasked with licensing, registering and inspecting pharmaceutical-grade marijuana manufacturing facilities. DCH could charge a “reasonable fee” for performing those functions, and would be required to create an online database listing licensed facilities. Anyone wishing to manufacture, distribute, prescribe or dispense marijuana would have to obtain a license from the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, as already required for other controlled substances.
Former Republican state House Speaker Chuck Perricone, who now represents a company licensed to manufacture medical marijuana in Canada, testified in support of the bill and suggested the state should also tax the drug. “The market for this is virtually untapped,” Perricone said. “The potential for the product is tremendous.”
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