April 15, 2016

Zombie Legislation: Are Lansing’s Marijuana Bills Dead Yet?

April 15, 2016
michigan capital marijuana

michigan capital marijuanaIn a really bad B-movie, sometimes the dead just keep on popping up to surprise the living- even after being stabbed, shot, burned and re-buried. Similarly, a pair of pro-marijuana bills that were (supposedly) killed by corporate greed have popped back up into relevance again, and were put down one more time on Wednesday, April 13.

The MIRS news service (“Meekhof: Senate A No-Go On Medical Marijuana Regulation For Now,” April 14) reports that Michigan’s Republican Senators caucused nearly all Wednesday morning on the subject of HBs 4209, 4210 and 4827, describing the proceedings with terms like “the outlook was not promising” and “concerns are broad” within the party caucus.

When asked after the caucus by media what the problems were with the bills, Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof (R-West Olive) said simply, “All of it.”

Another apparent death for the legislative package, which once represented the best hope for patient and business protections and are now hated by nearly everyone in Michigan’s cannabis community. But in a bizarre world where the rules are fluid and the ‘killed’ seem to have more lives that a Siamese cat, is any piece of legislation ever really dead?


The three bills that make up the package each have their own history. The bill currently known as HB 4209 was initiated years ago by marijuana industry organization MACC and other community members; after MACC disbanded the National Patients Rights Association took up the shepherding of the bill through the legislative process. When a poor Appellate case from 2013 changed the interpretation of the medical marijuana laws to deny legality for concentrates and edibles, the NPRA worked with legislators to fix the problem and the original version of HB 4210 was born.

Although derived by advocates at two separate times, HB 4209 (authorizing and protecting cannabis commerce) and HB 4210 (re-legalizing the medicinal use of concentrates, edibles and non-smoked forms of marijuana) were reintroduced in January of 2015 after having died in 2014’s legislative session by failing to secure a final vote of the Senate. HB 4827, which would authorize a seed-to-sale tracking program for marijuana cultivators, was added in a House Committee in 2015.

After the January re-introduction of bills, HB 4209 sponsor Republican Representative Michael Callton (Nashville, Michigan) and House Judiciary Committee Chair Rep. Klint Kesto proceeded to inject the two bills with Zombie-inducing Corporvirus, a sickness provided by lobbyists and a money-soaked new cannabis business group, the Michigan Cannabis Development Association (MCDA). The corporate-influenced disease amended, manipulated and twisted the bills from the pro-patient documents they were into an unrecognizable mismash of tax- and regulation- style horrors. Kesto’s HB 4827 is so toxic that even eight months after its introduction, none of the other 109 House Representatives has signed on to co-sponsor it, including Callton.

Marijuana law reform advocates worked with Representative Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) and other House Democrats during the floor debate on the bills. Pro-patient forces injected a serum of sanity during this process, removing some of the horrible Kesto/MCDA provisions and giving life back to the misshapen hulks of formerly proud pieces of legislation. The cleaned-up version of the bills passed the House easily.

The serum wore off the moment the bills advanced to the Senate. The bill package was assigned to the Judiciary Committee, led by longtime marijuana law reform foe, Senator Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), who re-infected the bills with a more powerful version of Corporvirus. Jones mutated the bills by allowing the law enforcement lobby and corporate interests independent of the marijuana community to inject so many regulations, business advantages and anti-patient proposals that even his own Republicans on his own Committee stand in objection.


Jones encouraged the re-introduction of a three-tiered system to rule the state-controlled medical marijuana program (it had been removed during the House process), a deal breaker for nearly everyone from the legitimate cannabis community- except the MCDA, who employed lobbyist Ken Cole to “hijack” the bills from the NPRA and Corporvirus them. It’s easy to see why the unpopular and aloof business group pay Cole and his lobbying firm, GCSI, thousands and thousands of dollars to lobby for these changes: the opportunity for profit.

Michigan’s alcohol distribution system is based on the same three-tier system. The tiered model is extremely unpopular with Michigan’s small business entities, local units of government and citizens groups. Giant beer, wine and spirit distributorships are owned by the few and protected by the State to operate in exclusive territories similar to the model envisioned by the Responsible Ohio ballot group and advocated for by the dormant Michigan Responsibility Council (MRC), whose frontman Tim Beck was quoted by MIRS as “disappointed” with the bills’ failure to advance, and who called efforts by patients and lawmakers to kill the bad bills “pathetic.”

Both HB 4209 and HB 4210, in their original forms, were to be administered by local governments who could control the degree of cannabis commerce taking place in their communities; the proposed tiered system gives exclusive rights to purchase, warehouse and ship cannabis to corporate entities chosen by the state, not locals. The new 2016 version eliminates the local control protections and prohibits registered medical marijuana caregivers from being employed at any level at all in the new cultivation, transportation, production and distribution system the bills would create.

When the NPRA and vocal advocates denounced the 2016 version of these bills and stood in opposition, Committee members took notice and denied support for the twisted version of the marijuana legislation and the bills were deemed ‘unpassable.’ It was thought that this was the end of the bills; if you cannot pass legislation out of Committee it cannot get to the Senate floor for a vote, and the bills die where they lie.

Unable to muster support for his Frankenstein package within the normal procedures of legislature, Sen. Jones appealed to the Senate’s Majority Leader, Sen. Meekhof, for an alternative way to get the bills passed. The verdict: Jones could take his grotesque legislation out of his Republican-dominated committee IF he could get approval by his party’s Caucus to do so.

Yesterday during the legislature’s Republican Caucus an effort to bypass the normal legislative procedure and resurrect the 3-bill package failed, according to Lansing insiders and the MIRS news report. Even Jones’ own party members do not support the Corporvirus-infected, big-government proposals contained in the current version of the bills.

The Zombie Legislation was defeated- again- but until the end of 2016’s legislative session, the threat of the walking dead is still out there.

Source: The Compassion Chronicles


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