Hidden within the Senate version of the Fiscal Year 2014 proposed budget is a section that will allow Michigan's medical marihuana fund to be used to pay for county-level law enforcement agencies to hunt down the very people that paid into the fund.
The allocation is officially known as Section 728 of the budget proposal contained within Senate Bill 190. It provides for an allocation of up to $3 million earmarked "for discretionary grants to county law enforcement departments for education about and enforcement of the Michigan medical marihuana program". The medical marihuana program (MMP) is administered by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), who refuses to release information on the amount of money in this fund without a Freedom of Information Act filing.
Section 728 was not included in the first version of SB 190 and the House version of the appropriations bill contains no similar language. According to the Senate Fiscal Agency, this section was inserted by Sen. Jansen, the bill's sponsor, purportedly at the request of LARA's administration. SB 190 has been passed out of the Appropriations Committee and now faces a vote of the full Senate on April 25. Both the House and Senate versions of the Appropriations Bill will be reconciled in Conference Committee, where sections can be debated and removed.
The medical marihuana program consists entirely of patients and caregivers who have paid a fee and registered with the state. By law, their identities are kept secret from local and state police out of a fear of selective enforcement, which makes it nearly impossible to assign officers to enforce the MPP. Typically, MMP participants become ensnared in the law due to normal drug interdiction actions that only accidentally reveals their legally registered status. Without any clear direction, patient advocates fear these grant monies would be turned over to NET raid teams to fund their general activities. Operating on a county level, these raid teams are infamous for their smash-style dynamic entry techniques, military weaponry and training.
If the funds were to be used for education of officers on the MMP, current language leaves that responsibility to the individual county agencies, not LARA. Michigan's counties do not all interpret the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act the same and never have. Dispensaries flourish in Ann Arbor, Flint and Detroit while Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo have shuttered facilities. Without guidance from LARA and coordinated educational tools there is no guarantee that the officers would receive consistent and uniform information.
When told of the potential grant allocation, Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard said, "We have an in-house training program." Bouchard stated that if educational funds were provided he would "bring in all the law enforcement agencies within Oakland County and train them in our facility." Oakland County is widely recognized as Michigan's most strict jurisdiction regarding marijuana crimes- and the most narrow in the field of interpreting the MMP.
Distribution and reporting on the use of these funds is unusual. Law currently requires LARA to produce a report by January 1st of each year. That report provides patient statistics detailing ailments reported, a county-level distribution of patients and caregivers and a report on financial expenditures and income.
Section 728 would require the county-level breakdown of patients to be accomplished by November 30. Those numbers would be used to allocate the $3 million in grants based on the number of patients contained within a county. This favors Oakland, Wayne, and Macomb counties as they are the most populous counties for medical marijuana patients in Michigan; all three counties have less that 1.29% of adult populations registered as patients. Less populated counties like Kalkaska, Clare, Lake and Jackson would be at a disadvantage for grant money despite having more than 3% of all adults in those counties registered as medical marijuana patients.
The discretionary grants require a report filed by July 31, 2014 to LARA explaining how the funds were used; no review process or pre-approval submissions are required under the language of the proposed law. Who decides how much of the up to $3 million is disbursed, who determines which applicants get the monies, the deadline date for applications and the parameters acceptable for the expenditures are left undefined. Additional reporting requirements are placed on LARA to assemble the individual reports, aggregate them and issue their own report to the state budget director, the senate and house appropriations committees and their fiscal agencies.
Alternative language has been circulated which would more narrowly define the scope of expenditures. That language proposes to allocate up to $1 million on reinvestment in Michigan by purchasing municipal bonds from cities within the state, and up to $2 million to retrain field officers involved in the annual marijuana eradication program. Michigan has legal outdoor growing operations and the legislature has defined what they look like; retraining by LARA of all aerial spotters and ground teams will protect patients and caregivers, eliminate wasted law enforcement time and direct efforts towards illegal marijuana grow operations on state lands.
The controversial Section 728 reads:
Sec. 728. (1) Not later than November 30, the department shall prepare a report that provides the number of registry identification cards issued to or renewed for patients residing in each county during the fiscal year ending September 30, 2013, under the Michigan medical marihuana act, 2008 IL 1, MCL 333.26421 to 333.26430. The department shall submit this report to the state budget director, the senate and house appropriations committees, and the fiscal agencies.
(2) After submitting the report under subsection (1), the department may expend up to $3,000,000.00 of the funds appropriated in part 1 for the Michigan medical marihuana program for discretionary grants to county law enforcement departments for education about and enforcement of the Michigan medical marihuana program. These discretionary grants, if issued, shall be distributed proportionately based on the number of registry identification cards issued to or renewed for the residents of each county. In order to be eligible to receive a grant under this subsection, a county law enforcement department must agree to report how the grant was spent and provide that report to the department no later than July 31, 2014. The department shall submit a report by September 30, 2014 to the state budget director, the senate and house appropriations committees, and the fiscal agencies detailing the amounts, the recipients, and the reported uses of these discretionary grants.
View the full version of SB 190 v2 HERE.
Source: The Compassion Chronicles