Michigan Senators Consider 'Stone Soup' Medical Marijuana Legislation

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michigan medical marijuana town hall

Titles Do Not Match Descriptions, 11 Proposed Changes In One Bill; Legislative "Swiss Cheese" Needs Evaluation, Not Speedy Vote

By Rick Thompson

Word is circulating in the media and in Lansing that the Walsh package of anti-patient bills may be voted on in the Senate on Thursday, December 6th during this year's lame duck session of the legislature. These Bills addressing the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMA) have been so extensively modified and widely criticized that they have little clarity and even less support remaining. Enough significant questions remain to keep these bills shelved until a more organized and popular effort can be launched during next session.

The Walsh Bills were a package of eight bills designed to "reign in" the MMMA. Introduced in June 2011, none of the bills have ever been passed and in the year-and-a-half since their introduction, the need for action has fizzled and died. No community groups are calling for action against marijuana patients; the opposite is true, with voters grandly signaling the need for relaxed marijuana laws, not increased restrictions on the sick and injured.

The Bills, now pared down to four, have been passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate Judiciary Committee. They await a vote of the Senate, and then a vote in the House affirming the Senate's changes. Any bills not approved at the end of this year are voided and must be re-introduced next year. Reports suggest this legislation had no chance of passing during the regular session, suggesting Republican leadership intentionally reserved their consideration until after the election. The bills could be reborn next year: Republicans will hold majorities in both the House and Senate in 2013, removing any need for end-of-year legislative expedience at the expense of social justice. The lame duck session is notoriously fast-paced and a superficial reading of bills prior to passage is common. The Walsh bills require a more extensive read to understand the complexities- there are 11 changes to the MMA proposed in the current version of HB 4851 alone.

Stone Soup Legislation

HB 4834 carries this official government description:

Health; medical marihuana; photograph on medical marihuana card; require. Amends sec. 6 of 2008 IL 1 (MCL 333.26426).

(emphasis added)

HB 4834 was introduced in June of 2011. That issue, requiring photographs on medical marijuana cards, has been dropped from the current version of HB 4834 being floated in the Senate, V-2. Senators and Representatives unfamiliar with this bill, who rely on these descriptions for guidance, will be voting for a fraud. HB 4834 has been altered so many times the content is confusing to even the most intimately involved politicos. A companion bill, HB 4851, has proposed or contained more than 15 different variations on changes to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (see chart below). Even single issues appear on different bills. Transporting live marijuana plants in a car is allowed under HB 4834, but rules regarding transporting dried useable marijuana in a car are found in HB 4856. The passage of the Walsh bills would create more of the "Swiss cheese" that the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act is routinely compared to.

Single issue bills are completely possible- the Senate did it. The three Bills that have been passed by the Senate and are headed for a vote in the House- SBs 321, 505 and 933- are single-issue bills, easily read and understood. So are two of the four House bills, HB 4853 and HB 4856. Combined, the two controversial House bills 4851 and 4834 currently contain more than 30 proposed changes to the MMA.

Much of this confusion is the result of the legislative stone soup nature of the development of the Walsh Bills. It appears each bill was started as a single issue before various special interest groups each added their own flavor to the soupy package. "Special interest groups are lining up to push their agendas and collect political IOUs," says the Morning Sun. The Michigan State Police, the Michigan Township's Authority, the Attorney General's office, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, all contributed pieces to the end result. This is especially apparent when evaluating the additional restrictions on patients made after both HB 4851 and 4834's initial filing (see chart below).

And there will be no time to read these convoluted pieces of legislation: reports suggest the Senate has booked themselves an early exit from duty, bowing out as early as December 13th, whereas the House may continue to conduct business until the 20th. If true, this gives the Senate only six days in session remaining in 2012 with more pressing issues left to resolve, including the NPO status of Blue Cross/Blue Shield, Right to Work, regional transportation, Emergency Managers, tax credits for fetuses, etc.

"Even if these issues individually merited consideration there is simply no time to give them a thorough evaluation by legislators or a reasonable period for citizen response," said Jamie Lowell of the 3rd Coast Compassion Center. "There are no lame ducks in the Senate. Every man and woman is going to have to own their vote and be accountable to the people in January. And the people have spoken, clearly and often, on this issue."

PROPOSED CHANGE TO MMA 2011-2012

BILL NUMBER

DATE

STATUS OF PROPOSAL

HOUSE BILLS

Restrict gatherings of medical marijuana patients

HB 4397

Mar-11

Dropped by House/companion to SB 17

Prohibit all felons from becoming caregivers

HB 4463

Mar-11

Dropped by House/language added to HB 4851

Marijuana activities must be 500' away from church/school

HB 4661

May-11

Dropped by House

Registry violation for selling to non-registered patients

HB 4661

May-11

Dropped by House

Require photos on MMA cards

HB 4834

Jun-11

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Allow MMA applications to constitute probable cause

HB 4834

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Allow patient database access by law enforcement via name and DOB

HB 4834

Jun-11

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Allow patient database access by law enforcement via LEIN system

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Allow patient database access by contractors

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Require probable cause prior to database inquiry

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/rejected by LARA/Dropped by Senate

Allow privatization of MMA

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Require privatization of MMA within 1 year

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Require New Conditions panel to meet

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Establish a 15-member maximum on New Conditions panel

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Require Chief Medical Exec. And Pain Management Cmtee. on Panel

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Adopt rules and responsibilities for Panel

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Collect all MMA revenue into Medical Marijuana Fund

HB 4834 (Senate S-4)

Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House

Give database access to park rangers, security guards, constables, others

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Cards valid for 2 years

HB 4834

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Restrict transfers to only patient- assigned caregiver

HB 4850

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- in person assessment

HB 4851

Jun-11

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- require prior relationship

HB 4851

Jun-11

Dropped- contrary to accepted medical practice

Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- require follow up treatment/exams

HB 4851

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Modify the dr.-patient relationship- optional notification to primary dr.

HB 4851

Jun-11

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Completely enclosed indoor growing area

HB 4851

Jun-11

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Require psychological evaluation of patient

HB 4851

Jun-11

Dropped- contrary to accepted medical practice

Restrict indoor plant access to one gardener only

HB 4851

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Require relevant medical records

HB 4851

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Authorize outdoor growing

HB 4851 (Version H-7)

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Allow plants to be transported in a moving vehicle

HB 4851

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Ban on caregivers for assaultive crimes

HB 4851

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Guarantee Section 8 Defense to trier of fact

HB 4851

Mar-12

Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version

Outdoor grows not visible to anyone

HB 4851 (Senate V-2)

Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House

Ban on caregivers for all felonies within 10 years

HB 4851 (Senate V-2)

Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House

Require MMA card AND driver license for arrest protections

HB 4851 (Senate V-2)

Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House

Require Michigan residency for patients

HB 4851 (Senate V-2)

Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House

Honor local ordinances restricting marijuana cultivation

HB 4852

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Assigns a Criminal Code to violations already contained in MMA

HB 4853

Jun-11

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Restrict advertising of medical marijuana

HB 4854

Jun-11

Dropped by House/unconstitutional

Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car- case/trunk

HB 4856

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car- trunk only

HB 4856

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car/$100 fine

HB 4856

Jun-11

Dropped by House

Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car/$500 fine

HB 4856

Mar-12

Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval

Require LARA to verify patient status to issue warrants

HB 5286

Jan-12

Dropped by House

Creates Provisioning Centers for distributing medical marijuana

HB 5580

May-12

Dropped by House

Establish Marijuana Pharmaceutical Industry

HB 5681

May-12

Dropped by House

SENATE BILLS

Bans patients congregating together

SB 17

Jan-11

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Exempt insurance companies from medical marijuana expenses

SB 321

Apr-11

Passed Senate 3/2012: awaiting House approval

Create parallel patient database within MSP

SB 377

May-11

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Protect state/local governments from lawsuits related to the MMA

SB 418

Jun-11

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Restrict marijuana activities to 1000 ft from church/school

SB 504

Jun-11

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Ban felons from becoming caregivers

SB 505

Jun-11

Passed Senate 6/2011: awaiting House approval

Mandatory notification to primary care physician

SB 505

Jun-11

Dropped by Senate/companion to HB 4851

Require prior Dr.-patient relationship before recommendation

SB 506

Jun-11

Dropped by Senate/companion to HB 4851

Exempt employers from medical marijuana expenses

SB 0933

Feb-12

Passed Senate 5/2012: awaiting House approval

Restrict marijuana use from private property open to public

SB 0974

Feb-12

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Eliminate glaucoma from list of qualifying conditions

SB0977

Feb-12

Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate

Establish Marijuana Pharmaceutical Industry

SB 1349

Oct-12

Dropped by Senate

*Chart notes- Dropped means Has Not Passed Committee Vote. All information as of 12/4/2012

Outmoded attitudes, old-school thinking

"Of course Mr. Schuette and company would love to wage this war; having lost the medical marijuana fight, he and others are itching to even the score."

Tim Skubic, 12/3/2012, referring to the effort to legalize marijuana, in a story pulished by Fox.

The Walsh Bills were introduced in a publicly sneaky way. A press conference announcing their introduction was held on June 28th, 2011, the last day of legislative session before the summer break, a move that allowed sponsors of legislation to avoid the storm of media criticism for nearly two months. Newly-elected Attorney General Bill Schuette was pushing hard to fix his failure, and was using the legislature to do it.

Schuette had been a leader of the anti-marijuana movement formed to block Proposal 1 in 2008; the measure passed by a 63% margin, a very public defeat for the then-Court of Appeals Judge. His first anti-marijuana action came just days after being sworn in as Attorney General in January 2011, reversing his predecessor Mike Cox's position and attempting to release confidential patient records to the DEA. That action was immediately blocked via a lawsuit filed by the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers. That case was not resolved until July 2011.

Schuette's cohort in the failed effort was Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard, who did his part to quash the medical marijuana act in his backyard. In August 2010 Bouchard conducted a series of raids on medical marijuana dispensaries to publicly declare they were illegal, a message that failed to carry through to the remainder of the state. He authorized the use of fake medical marijuana cards by police, the first time that had been done in the state. Today there are an estimated 100 + dispensaries still operating in Michigan. The Schuette/Bouchard sucker punch failed to drop their opponent.

The failed attempt to wipe out dispensaries and the frustration Schuette felt at being stymied in his efforts to collude with the DEA, coupled with a Republican majority in both houses of government, created an attitude of action on the part of conservatives. Since the House's greatest marijuana foe, Rick Jones, has advanced to the Senate a new champion was needed and John Walsh, R- Redford, was the man for the job. He holds Jones' former position, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, through which nearly all of the anti-patient bills have been funneled.

The People Stand Opposed

"Well, there is a possibility something will happen this session. If not, it will have to wait until next year. I am not the one who will be making that decsion."

Senator Rick Jones, as reported in The Compassion Chronicles.

The Walsh bills were not well accepted by voters. Public outcry during those weeks of vacation after the initial press conference was documented by media. Activists held Lobby Days to direct House Representatives to abandon unconstitutional restrictions on advertising and provisions allowing applications for MMA cards to be used as probable cause for searches. The cannabis community held a rally on September 7th, 2011, that brought 3,000 protesters to the Capitol steps.

Citizens from across the state flooded Lansing again to deliver testimony in the House against the Walsh Bills during the Judiciary Committee hearings. Overflow rooms and an additional session of the Committee were needed to accommodate those voters decrying the Walsh Bills. No citizen groups spoke in favor of the Bills.

Since then there has been continuous demands from voters to halt the anti-patient legislation. A recent survey of polls conducted by the statewide MLive Internet network of newspapers reveals a continuous level of support for both marijuana freedom and a relaxation of restrictions. Nationally polls by Rasmussen and Gallup show citizen support for legalization is steadily climbing. Two states voted to legalize marijuana nationally and within Michigan, five cities voted to fully legalize, decriminalize, reprioritize police efforts or authorize dispensaries less than a month ago- including the state's two largest cities.

Opposition against the Bills is as strong as it ever was, but the support for the anti-patient legislation has waned. In Committee hearings, representatives from the Michigan State Police emphasized their wish for pictures on the medical marijuana cards and greater access to the private, confidential database of patients and caregivers maintained by the state. Both of those measures are completely absent from current versions of the Bills being floated in the Senate; restrictions placed on physicians have been pared down to eliminate psychological evaluations, mandatory notification of the patient's primary physician and requirements for a previous medical relationship prior to issuing a recommendation are gone, too.

Others are opposed to the nature of the bills themselves. Despite millions upon millions of advertising dollars, voters displayed intolerance for legal manipulations when they rejected every attempt to alter the state Constitution in November. Sen. Jones has made marijuana his personal mission, but Jones' disavowal of responsibility puts the burden of calling these bills up on Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville- and those two men have had their differences in the past. "There is a feeling in Lansing that if they don't push these bills through and get a vote on them this year, then we wasted a lot of people's time," said Greg Pawlowski of Woodward Health Solutions in Detroit. "I'd rather waste time than make bad law. Wouldn't you?"

There is no metric available to prove citizen demand for Michigan's anti-patient legislation but proofs of society's relaxed attitude toward cannabis are abundant. Resistance has been uniform and strident against the legislation. To force passage of the Walsh Bills during the next two weeks would certainly prove the point raised by critics of the legislature: these anti-patient laws are so confusing and unpopular they could only be passed in the blurry rush of unaccountability that the lame duck session has become.

All the bills mentioned in this article are available on a single page for easy downloading:

http://www.thecompassionchronicles.com/resources/legislative/state/house-and-senate-bills-michigan/

The above graphic is available for download via this html document:

Proposed legislative changes to MMA 2011-2012

Rick Thompson is on 2 radio shows and writes for several MM publications in Michigan

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