By Tim Beck, The Compassion Chronicles
On April 1, 2013, the first legislative changes to the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) will take effect. Commonly know as the "Walsh Bills," because they were created under the supervision of Rep. John Walsh (R-Livonia) chairman of the powerful House Judiciary Committee, HB4851, 4834, 4856 and 4853 received the constitutionally required 3/4 supermajority vote of the Michigan Legislature in the early morning hours of December 14, 2012.
The passage of these bills have been a cause of great consternation to some members of the community. Others believe the bills will not drastically alter the MMMA to the point where patients and their providers will suffer in any radical way.
Reality is such, there is no value speculating as to who gets praise or damnation for the way these bills came about. They will soon be law and there is nothing anyone can do about that. We can only go forward and make the best of a good or bad bargain, depending upon ones perspective.
This blog is the first of a three part series, giving the community for the most part, a glass half full analysis of the new laws.
HB 4851 is a major piece of legislation. It codifies in more detail what the term bona fide physician-patient relationship means. In simple terms, it says a doctor recommending medical cannabis must review relevant patient medical records, keep his/her own records of the patient visit, perform a full assessment of the patients medical history, including a relevant in person medical evaluation of the patient. In addition, there must also be a reasonable expectation the doctor will be available to the patient, in case their medicine is not working properly.
What this means to me, is the standards used by my own medical cannabis doctor, the famous cannabis activist/ physician Frank Lucido MD, will soon be state law. When I make my yearly visit to Dr Lucido, I feel I'm getting something for my money besides a piece of paper making it legal for me to use marijuana. Its nice to know from Dr. Lucido my blood pressure is OK, my lungs are working right and if something else is physically wrong that I don't know about, it could get detected early. I know if some problem pops up down the road, Dr. Lucido will take my call.
On an anecdotal level, I understand many other doctors recommending cannabis also use Dr. Lucido's standards. They do so in order to minimize any risk to their medical licenses from officials such as Attorney General Bill Schuette and real or imaginary threats from bureaucrats at LARA.
Finally, some health care legal experts believe the fact there are now clear, black and white standards written into law as to what a doctor has to do to safely recommend medical cannabis; more doctors will now feel free to do so. If such a phenomena occurs, that is a good thing and will only broaden social acceptance and support for our community.
HB 4851 then goes on to specify in great detail what one must do to legally grow medicine out of doors. It also clarifies how live marijuana plants can be transported in motor vehicles.
Some growers I know don't like the new outdoor cultivation rules. They call them too rigid and object to the requirement that the growing plants must not be visible to the unaided eye from adjacent properties.
Other growers however welcome the rules, because many months ago the Attorney General issued an opinion implying medical cannabis can only be grown in special locked indoor closets, each containing only twelve plants each. In addition, these growers already make sure their plants are invisible to prying eyes from adjacent properties. They know if word gets out about their crop, they could easily become crime victims.
As far as transporting live plants, the MMMA in its original form did not address the matter one way or another, hence making it very dangerous to transport plants if the local cops don't like or respect the MMMA. HB4851 allows the registered patient or caregiver to transport the plants. Only the registered patient or caregiver is allowed to be in the vehicle when the plants are in transit.
Part 3 of HB4851 bans assaultive felons, guilty of crimes like murder, rape, pedophilia and the like from being caregivers. It bans non violent felons from being caregivers for ten years from the date of conviction. This is a glass half empty.
The MMMA law originally passed by the voters, banned persons convicted of drug related felonies from being caregivers. This was done to enable new, honest entrepreneurs to go into the business. Many drug felons were not just providing a benign substance like cannabis but were convicted of dealing in stuff like cocaine or pharmaceutical type narcotics.
On April 1, 2013 the MMMA will have been in effect for over four years. No one I know is aware of any wave of problems associated with other felon caregivers making trouble for patients. There is no good reason for such a change in the law. Nonetheless the majority political culture in the USA, both Democrats and Republican, is largely a culture of punishment. Politicians tagged with being "soft on crime" have paid the price over and over at the polls for their real or imaginary "soft" behavior. This issue was a battle we simply could not win at the negotiating table. We had to let it go or risk losing our credibility as a community; especially those of us who understood things could be much worse, if some earlier versions of this bill had passed.
The final change in the MMMA made by this bill, says in order to avoid arrest, a patient or caregiver must have both their registry ID card and another form of picture ID such as a drivers license or state ID card. An earlier version of this bill would have required LARA to produce a photo on the registry card itself, but that idea got dropped by the wayside due to bureaucratic resistance from LARA.
In any event, many persons in the community believe this photo ID requirement is simply common sense. It enables the patient or caregiver traveling in a hostile part of the state, to avoid having to spend time in the lock up until the cops get around to checking with LARA as to whether your card is legal, as is now allowed under the original MMMA.
In part 2 of this "half full or empty" series which will appear soon in the Chronicles, I will provide some perspective on 4834, 4853 and 49856 which will change other parts of the MMMA this coming April.
This article originally appeared on The Compassion Chronicles, show them some love!