Better Does Not Equal Good
By Rick Thompson
That’s a quote from me, and it describes the current version of four House bills designed to alter the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The road these bills have travelled has been chronicled in my previous blogs; read them for the background. Currently the potential laws have been passed out of Committee and are awaiting a vote on the House floor. Thank you, John Walsh, R-Livonia, and Bill Schuette. You have done what all the good works of great men could not accomplish: bring all of my people together under one tent. Our purpose- to oppose your changes.
Tuesday, April 17 is the first day back in session for Michigan’s House Representatives. On Monday, April 16, a letter will be delivered to all 110 of them- or, at least, their offices. The letter says we do NOT support these bills. It instructs the House to reject them. This letter is remarkable for one reason: every major cannabis organization in Michigan has signed on, including those organizations that worked with the House during the formation of these bills. Fighting and division is completely absent. Personality conflicts set aside. Old wounds are healed, and our ship is pointed in a fresh direction.
“Except as otherwise provided in this act, possession of, or application for, a registry identification cardshall not constitute probable cause or reasonable suspicion…”
Current language, HB 4834
Language like this is why we’ve formed our Alliance. An application for a registry identification card can be used as probable cause or create reasonable suspicion? Maybe in Russia, but not in my America. Maybe in China, but not in my America. Application for unemployment may mean you’re out of work but it does not justify a search of your home to see if you’ve been robbing local stores. Application for a medical marijuana card means you’re sick but it should NEVER be used to justify a search to see if you’re growing or using cannabis. Access by law enforcement to these applications, and to the list of physicians recommending cannabis to their patients, is guaranteed in section H (3) of the same bill. Rep. Gail Haines, R-Waterford, is this what you intended when you introduced HB 4834? I think your bill was hijacked by the House and it is out of your control. Thank you, John Walsh. My people are rallying around this concept. I told you and the Judiciary Committee to take this part out and you ignored me. Thank you.
“A person, including an employee, contractor, or official of the department or another state agency or local unit of government, who accesses, uses, or discloses nonpublic information governed under this act for personal use or gain or in a manner that is not authorized by law is guilty of a misdemeanor…”
Current language, HB 4834
The language used to say any official “who discloses confidential information in violation of this act” was guilty of a crime. Now there are protections for cops who reveal our patient status to their friends, or through laziness or inefficient execution of their duties. If improper disclosure is made, patients have to sue the police department and prove there was personal use or gain? More protection for police, fewer rights for patients. Thank you, House Republicans.
“Not later than 1 year after the effective date of the amendatory act that added this subsection, the department shall enter into a contract with a private contractor to assist the department in performing its duties under this section.”
Current language, HB 4834
In 2010 then-Attorney General Mike Cox issued Attorney General’s Opinion 7250 and announced it was against the rules to privatize the MMA because it would violate patient privacy. Governor Snyder moved administration of the Act from the medical field (under the Department of Community Health) and into the field of accountants (under the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department)
who are not health care professionals. The MMA is caught between the Administration’s privatization craze and their clear mandate for confidentiality preserved by Cox and demanded by the people in 2008. Their solution: change the rules to allow the compromise of confidentiality. The reduction in existing patient protections proposed by the House bills is why these organizations stand opposed to them.
HB 4851 contains rules to control the doctor-patient relationship, to define how and where people can grow cannabis outside, how to transport live plants, and more restrictions on who can be a caregiver. Look closely and you’ll see some craziness there:
“Marihuana plants grown outdoors by a registered patient or a registered designated caregiver are considered to be in an enclosed, locked facility if the plants are within a stationary structure… are not visible from an adjacent property.”
Current language, HB 4851
Hilly land is sometimes visible from miles away, and flat farm land allows you to see as far as the horizon. No compassion for those unfortunate property owners no matter how sick they are. What about 50 acres in a valley whose hillside neighbors can always see them? What percentage of land in Michigan is disqualified for the outdoor cultivation of cannabis because of this simple phrase tossed in on the end of a sentence? These are the loopholes that law enforcement and prosecutors will use to charge patients and caregivers with a crime. Unacceptable.
Transporting live plants from one place to another contains a similarly ridiculous restriction.
“A person is not in the vehicle unless the person is either the registered qualifying patient to whom the living marihuana plants belong or the person designated through the departmental registration process as the primary caregiver for the registered qualifying patient.”
Current language, HB 4851
These are patients. Don’t discriminate against sick and disabled people! Many of them do not drive, they have family members drive them. Many of them do not own their own car- have you seen what governmental disability checks are like these days? Tiny, ten-inch tall live plants called clones are the primary way indoor gardeners start their crops; how much danger does any ten-inch plant represent? Heartless and ignorant, this rule is. Rep. Phil Cavanagh, D-Redford Township, your bill didn’t start out as a tool of discrimination; what happened?
According to HB 4856, you can transport marijuana in a car only if:
“(A) enclosed in a case that is carried in the trunk of the vehicle.
(B) enclosed in a case that is inaccessible from the interior of the vehicle, if the vehicle in which the person is traveling does not have a trunk.”
Current language, HB 4856
If you drive a minivan, you have to strap a case onto the roof of your car, loading and unloading at every destination. That should make it easy for thieves and muggers to figure out who the patients are. If you drive a motorcycle, forget about it; no carrying any cannabis for you. You eco-friendly bicyclists and your self-propelled vehicles are out of luck, too. It no longer is about preventing people from operating their vehicle in an impaired manner, it has become about creating easily broken rules that allow law enforcement to continue to raise revenue via traffic tickets and seizing automobiles for sale at auction. Rep. Ben Glardon, R-Owosso, was this the intent you had in mind when you introduced the bill? Probably not. Who switched your gears?
A common-sense reading of the language involved shows more loopholes being given to prosecutors and law enforcement officers. This isn’t a surprise to CPU, to MACC, to the Ann Arbor Guild, to the MMMA, to various Compassion Clubs and Centers and independent people who follow Lansing’s actions: the Michigan State Police and the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan have had great access to legislators and to the special work groups that were formed to deal with these issues. By limiting input from patients and maximizing the influence of special interest groups, the legislature has missed an opportunity to be the hero to the people. Thanks again, Billy and John, for bringing everyone to the party. Together we are mighty.
I’d like to speak directly to the elected officials in our state. It was the gales of November that sunk the Edmond Fitzgerald in the cold waters of Lake Superior. A wind of change is brewing in Michigan; indeed, across the nation. I hope you can swim.
Rick Thompson is on 2 radio shows and writes for several MM publication in Michigan.