Compassion over Capitalism

Any current discussions about Michigan’s medical marijuana program will undoubtedly include how ‘cloudy’ the law is. The words on the paper have spurred many discussions and arguments about the details of the law. On the other hand, nearly everyone can agree that the intent of the law is clear: that people shouldn’t get in trouble or be penalized for using a substance their doctor recommends. The underlying theme of the act is compassion for patients who need cannabis treatment.

Sadly, in many counties around the state, the will of the people is being blatantly ignored while law enforcement uses the MMMA as a sword instead of the shield it was intended to be.

Last February, patients, parents, and politicians stood side by side to introduce bills to help end the marijuana madness in Michigan for many regarding what’s ‘legal’. The bills, HB4209 and HB4210 were written to establish ground rules for dispensaries and allow for concentrates to be protected as a legitimate form of medical marijuana.

It seems as though the politicians can’t hide or dodge this topic anymore. Marijuana is being talked about everywhere. Seeing pot on the news is becoming more mainstream as evidenced by cover stories featured on Time magazine, Newsweek, and National Geographic just to name a few.

The public consensus is that people desperately want to overhaul the cannabis prohibition laws in America. They thing they can’t agree on, is how best to do it.

For patients and providers, dispensaries are a key component to the availability of quality medicine.

Opponents of medical marijuana often say “today’s weed is not your grandpa’s weed.” And while that may be true, it’s not necessarily a bad thing. Marijuana today is packed with medicinal benefits and CBD (often used to treat seizures) was rarely found in the cannabis of the 70s.

Strains with high amounts of CBD, like Charlotte’s Web which was seen on the CNN Sanjay Gupta special “Weed”, can only be found in dispensaries and from a very few compassionate caregivers. Since it does cause a ‘high’, it is not valuable on the black market and therefore cannot be found on the streets. Growing it can be timely and complicated and often the very sick patients who need it the most are not in a condition where they can grow efficiently.

With the holidays upon us, we can expect that many visitors are coming here from out of state, staying with family and friends. Legal dispensaries would provide a way for ill loved ones with medical marijuana cards from another state to be able to pick up and use their medicine while visiting. Sadly, seven years after the act was passed, we still have no concrete legal way for out-of-state patients to obtain marijuana even though the act itself covers this specific issue.

MCL 333.26424(j) – A registry identification card, or its equivalent, that is issued under the laws of another state, district, territory, commonwealth, or insular possession of the United States that allows the medical use of marihuana by a visiting qualifying patient, or to allow a person to assist with a visiting qualifying patient’s medical use of marihuana, shall have the same force and effect as a registry identification card issued by the department.

Detroit Councilman James Tate endorsing the House bills in support of Medibles/ oils and provisioning centers in February of 2015.

Detroit Councilman James Tate endorsing the House bills in support of Medibles/ oils and provisioning centers in February of 2015.

Furthermore, the legality of concentrates and edibles is a pressing matter to both pediatric and adult patients who can’t smoke. For the last couple years, they’ve been left wondering what is legal for them to use even though their doctor recommended edible products. Bella Chinonis, who was born with 1P36 Deletion Syndrome, a chromosomal defect, is a 6-yr old patient who cannot smoke but has found tremendous relief from medical cannabis oil. Two years is too long to go without a treatment that a doctor has approved, and some patients have been charged and convicted because of using edible or concentrate cannabis products during that time.

Now, nine months after the bills were introduced (the time it takes to form a human being), we see childish politics at the capital while the patients who need pot suffer.

The bills have been stalled in Michigan Senate Judiciary committee for 2 months with promises of movement. They were finally given a hearing date along with 14 other bills. It will take place on December 8th at 1:00pm and is scheduled to last just one hour. Some insiders think this legislation will get pushed through in a quick whirlwind but others are skeptical.

Recently, there have been claims that Senator Bieda (D-Warren) added a component to HB4209 that would require armored trucks (specifically a single company) to transport any medical marijuana to the dispensaries.

However, Beida himself maintains that he has made no statement, revisions, or amendments to either of these bills.

More specifically, he does not support nor think there is a need for armored trucks to be transporting medical marijuana. “It’s absurd that someone would even say that. We don’t require alcohol or pharmaceutical drugs be transported that way.”

Michigan Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren)

Michigan Senator Steve Bieda (D-Warren)

As the only democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, he could reasonably be the biggest proponent for these bills on the whole committee. His perspective on the problem of dispensaries in the medical marijuana act is that they should be solved by the legislature not the courts.

As for the intent of the act: “I think the intent was to provide a legal and compassionate option for use of medical marijuana for those who need it.”

But he didn’t stop there. On the topic of adult legalization, he says, “decriminalization of marijuana makes sense.”

The Committee Members: Rick Jones (R) Committee Chair, 24th District Tonya Schuitmaker (R) Vice Chair, 26th District Tory Rocca (R) 10th District Patrick Colbeck (R) 7th District Steven M Bieda (D) Minority Committee Chair, 9th District

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