LANSING- He said it to a Kalamazoo radio reporter. He told it to an Internet news journalist. Now the official word is out; the much-anticipated launch of the Senate debate over medical marijuana dispensaries will get underway on March 11, just as Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville said it would.
On March 11 at 1PM, Richardville's Government Operations Committee will convene to hear testimony on a pair of bills that passed the Michigan House by strong majorities. HB 4271, known as the Provisioning Centers Act, would protect the state's over 100 existing marijuana distribution centers while allowing local communities the option to allow new ones to open- and to determine where and how those centers operate. HB 5104, the Concentrates Bill, would establish the legitimacy of liquid, topical and non-smoked forms of marijuana for legal use by the state's 115,000 registered and certified medical marijuana patients.
HB 4271 was passed by the House with a vote of 95 in favor and 14 opposed. HB 5104 was approved by the House Representatives with an even stronger margin: 100 - 9.
Richardville decided this hearing would be "testimony only," meaning the bills will be discussed but not voted on during Tuesday's session. A lineup of Michigan marijuana advocacy organizations are preparing to testify after having been invited to participate in the hearing. Based on the testimony provided, Richardville could offer or adopt amendments to the bills, he could recommend that the Senate make changes to the bills in a 'workgroup' format, he could schedule a vote on the bills as written or choose to delay voting until later in the year.
Sen. Richardville (R- Monroe) is the most powerful man in the Michigan Senate. When two bills were passed in the House that would change the way medical marijuana is defined and distributed in Michigan, Richardville directed them to the Committee he chairs.
During Committee sessions in 2013 Richardville promised to give both bills, HB 4271 and HB 5104, a fair and prompt evaluation. Earlier this year Richardville told a Kalamazoo radio reporter that he would give the bills a hearing within the next 30 days. An MLive report quoted him as saying he would hear testimony in February or March. He has met all of those commitments.
This is the second distribution scheme heard by the Committee this legislative session. In November, Richardville introduced a bill to create a new medical marijuana program in the state,; that bill, SB 660, was rushed through the Senate and the House by state Republican leaders. Known as the pot-for-pharmacies bill, SB 660 was signed into law before the end of 2013 but will not become active until marijuana is no longer listed as a Schedule 1 drug under the federal Controlled Substances Act.
There have been no announcements or indications that a change in federal scheduling will take place during 2014.
Anyone wishing to submit written testimony, which will be incorporated into the written record for the bill(s) involved, should submit their letter to the Committee Secretary at: