Jun 252015
 June 25, 2015

michigan medical marijuana town hall1,500 marijuana plants in a single garden? Armed guards transporting pot brownies from the kitchen to the warehouse? A 16% tax on medical marijuana?

With the release of the latest draft of Michigan’s medical marijuana dispensary bill, HB 4209, sponsor Rep. Michael Callton (R-Nashville) has taken The Provisioning Centers Act in a “drastically different” direction. The flip-flop by Callton has longtime supporters insistent on change and threatening to abandon their support for the four-year old proposal.

Seemingly involved in the major shift in direction: the Michigan Cannabis Development Association (MCDA) and Lansing-area real estate mogul Ron Boji, Commissioner of the Department of Transportation for the State of Michigan serving a term through 2017.

Robin Schneider, Legislative Liaison for the pro-patient lobbying group National Patients Rights Association(NPRA) appeared on The Planet Green Trees Radio Show’s June 18 broadcast to discuss Draft 5 of HB 4209. The NPRA is the leading lobbying organization in Michigan advocating for the restoration of legality for patient use of non-smoked forms of cannabis and to establish organized and regulated distribution of medical marijuana in the state.

In studio with host Michael Komorn were co-hosts Jamie Lowell and this author, Rick Thompson, two men who helped draft the original version of this bill in 2011.

Lowell called the new language a “distinct departure” from the version introduced in the House earlier this year. The bill took testimony during two House Judiciary sessions, one May 1 and one on May 7, but none of these radical changes were offered or suggested during those hearings.

ENTER: THE MIDDLEMAN

Jamie Lowell began the segment on PGT by announcing that Rep. Michael Callton (R-Nashville) declined to appear on the show.

“I asked Rep. Callton tonight if he would come on (the radio show) and if he’d be willing to explain what’s been going on, what happened, whether or not he supports this bill in this form,” Lowell explained.

“His response to me was:

“I can’t do the show tonight. There are very dynamic and sensitive negotiations going on right now with police groups and the Governor’s office that I can’t really talk about on the radio.”

One of those sensitive issues must be the newly-created concept of adding a middleman to deny direct sales of cannabis from grower to Provisioning Center.

“In the most recent draft (Draft 5), there is something called a (marijuana) distributorship.” The NPRA is “fundamentally very opposed to that concept,” Schneider said.

“What that means is a grower would be able to sell marijuana to a distributor and the distributor would transport it, store it, test it, and then sell it to the provisioning centers.”

“Provisioning centers would only be allowed to buy marijuana from a distributor. ”

Schneider said the program was “similar to the three-tiered alcohol model.”

The distributor controls transport of all cannabis going in to and out of a processor’s business, a grower’s garden and from the distributor to the provisioning centers themselves, Schneider explained, integrating their businesses far more than just “a middleman that is buying it and selling it and jacking up the price.”

“It’s transport and warehousing,” Thompson said. “(Distributors) would purchase all the cannabis from the grow facilities, they would hold it and then distribute it to whom they decided and to whom was willing to pay the price they wanted.”

“That’s right,” Schneider agreed.  “It’s pretty clear it is somebody interjecting themselves into a position to make a lot of money.”

Inserting a mandatory warehouse program carries consequences to the consumer, Schneider offered. “There would be an added middleman in between the grower and the provisioning center. That’s certainly a concern for us because it’s not a very necessary step in there… but mostly because it’s going to add an enormous cost to the final price of the medicine.”

“Over the years, we’ve always tried to keep the focus on the patients, what’s best for them, but we do have a lot of business interests coming in and corrupting the process.”

Schneider said changes to the draft of the bill were needed in order for the NPRA “to continue supporting the bill.”

TAXES, ASSESSMENTS AND 1500 PLANTS

The bill proposes to create giant mega-pot farms in Michigan. “It would be a maximum number of 1500 plants (per license) in this bill,” Schneider revealed. Currently, each patient is allowed to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants on their own or through a caregiver.

The emphasis is heavy on taxes and assessments.

“They want to charge a 16% tax on the marijuana between the distributor and the dispensary,” Schneider said, and called the tax “insane and not appropriate to charge for a medically-needed product.”

HB 4209 requires a new governmental agency be established to regulate the distributors and Provisioning centers. In order to jump-start the program an initial assessment is necessary to offset costs, Schneider said. Businesses approved to participate in the program would collectively pay the fee. “There would also be an assessment paid through the licensing of the businesses of $12 million in the first year.”

The PGT on-air staff members were shocked to hear this number, but Schneider said “the original number was $50 million.”

By comparison, “The entire state of Alaska runs their entire recreational program on $1.5 million,” she added.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING

Earlier this year, professional lobbyist Ken Cole from Lansing powerhouse firm GCSI told a group of marijuana business owners during a public meeting he could “hijack” a pair of bills in the Michigan legislature, HB4209 and HB4210. He suggested the bills could be flipped from pro-patient to pro-business, therefore creating a unique advantage for his clients- the MCDA- in the medical marijuana marketplace.

With the publication of Draft 5 of The Provisioning Centers Act, it appears Cole has earned his money.

Since that public meeting, the two bills were given a pair of hearings in the House Judiciary Committee, led by Rep. Klint Kesto (R-Commerce Township). The hearings began with a presentation by the Michigan State Police (MSP) on the evils of marijuana and cannabis consumers, based on information provided by the Colorado Police Chiefs Association, where the MSP claimed a single marijuana grower in Michigan produces 18,000 joints in a single year.

The hearings featured testimony from parents of sick children, industry representatives and concerned citizens. None of the changes appearing in Draft 5 were offered, discussed or even hinted at. The draft was released by Callton’s office just days before the legislature is prepared to break for summer recess, minimizing the fallout for Lansing politicos who have offered a proposal that is, very predictably, not going to be well-received.

Komorn asked about that special summer session of the legislature.

“(The legislature) are having a couple of special sessions this summer, one in July and possibly another one in August,” Schneider said. ”From what I was told we’ll be in a workgroup for the next month and we’ll be coming back in July.”

“Law enforcement wants to keep these two bills as a package and tackle them at the same time,” Schneider said later during the interview. “As far as we’re concerned, HB 4209 needs a lot of work.”

“We’re nowhere near being ready to support it.”

Giving the bill a hearing during a special summer session should minimize the media attention and public participation, a strategy that has been used to shelter politically unpopular legislation.

ORIGIN

When asked by host Komorn about the impetus for the changes, Schneider said, “some of those were to address law enforcement concerns, some of it came from the governor’s office and administration, and of course there’s this distributorship thing. I’m assuming it came from business interests that want to be the middleman and distribute all the marijuana in the state.”

Lowell identified one name that had come up repeatedly in conversations in Lansing regarding the “dramatic changes” to the bills: “Ron Boji.”

When asked, Schneider said, “Yes, I do have knowledge that he is lobbying for a marijuana distributorship at this time.”

The Boji Group owns the Boji Tower or Capital View, Lansing’s tallest building and the new home of the Michigan Senate. Boji is a Snyder appointee to the position of Transportation Commissioner in 2013 and was named Lansing Entrepreneur of the Year by a trade organization earlier this year.

Schneider singled out the spike in new lobbyists haunting Lansing as a factor in the derailing of the Provisioning Centers Act. “When you have these corporate interests show up, approaching this from a ‘how much money can I make’ point of view, it makes it very difficult to get something passed that is good for the patients.”

She added, “I would definitely say that we’re the only ones in there fighting for the little guy. It’s very intimidating, very overwhelming. It’s difficult.”

Later, Schneider said, “I would recommend, now that (Draft 5) has been circulated and that everybody knows that Ron Boji is pushing for a distributorship/middleman, I would say anyone that is concerned about that should go ahead and give Rep. Callton a call. Absolutely. Let him know how you feel about that.”

“Rep. Kesto, with that being in his Committee, that would also be welcomed as well.”

Rep. Callton’s contact information:

Phone: 517-373-0842
Toll Free: 855-373-0842
Fax: 517-373-6979
Email: MikeCallton@house.mi.gov

Rep. Kesto can be reached through his office at:

Phone: (517) 373-1799
FAX: (517) 373-8361Email: KlintKesto@house.mi.gov

 

Listen to the entire episode at the Planet Green Trees site on blogtalkradio.com at:

www.blogtalkradio.com/planetgreentrees/2015/06/19/pgt-episode-253-michigan-dispensary-bill-blows-up

Source: The Compassion Chronicles

marijuana business fact book

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About Rick Thompson

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer."Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.
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  10 Responses to “Michigan Medical Marijuana ‘Provisioning Centers Act’ Hijacked And Corrupted”

  1.  

    Are you fucking kidding me 8O!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Sounds like a business plan to make some serious loot, this is disgusting, and shows first hand the abuses in goverment we face. Unprecedented. I guess we should a all grabbed the first warehouse and started bootlegging ourselves???????? I just feel so frustrated at the utter lack of understanding, people are sick and dieing, children get relief and all these low lives can see is money. money. money. We ask for help in bringing back dispensary’s and helping our sick consume edibles, and all they give a fuck about is the money??????? Cannot tell you how pissed and disgusted I am. We have too send a strong united message. We will not be bought out! Since 2008, we watched something monumental be utterly destroyed, by so called representatives, TRAITORS to the cause I say now. My State goverment has gone rouge. Saddest day to date for me.

    •  

      If you’re mad enough to write all that out, please PLEASE, be angry enough to call the numbers above. All these slimeballs care about is getting re-elected, and a flurry of phonecalls from angry voters making them fear their re-election is the only way to change their mind.

      •  

        Oh you better believe Ive been calling Matt. Been calling my so called representatives for years now, Ive never actually talked to a single office holder in over 3000 calls. See my name isn’t big enough I have a criminal record as a kid, and I’m poor. My voice is hardly heard, if at all, But my heart is infinite, quit does not exist for me, Ive been fighting and posting and calling every chance I get. Ive been all in since 08, I watched as this all has developed, worse an worse. as soon as they made p to p sales illegal, I told everyone they wouldn’t stop an they didn’t. Now what we voted for doesn’t exist. I mean literally, gone! The original three questions I came out an voted for the only time I ever voted anything, its gone. I mean they did exactly what alota folks said, disgraced the state. Ill never forget this, a stronk reminder of the very real abuses in government we face on a day to day, our cops are outta control, lawyers are outta control, lawmakers are outta control, judges are outta control. We live in a new world order, its long on new and short on order!

  2.  

    When this kind of thing happens, it usually turns out that the politician re-writing the bill already has in mind the individuals who will own the “distributorship” with the politician’s wife or brother as a part owner of the holding company that provides equity to said distributor:)

  3.  

    We all must take a stand against this piracy of our medical system. It’s our medicine, it’s our life. We the People must stop this greed and corruption. This is just Big Pharma’s little brother sneaking in the back door to steal our meds. for their profit. Here in RI. their trying to do the same kind of corrupt thing to our system. It works well for the patients now. Leave us alone to die in peace.

  4.  

    This is disgusting. Foul, corrupt, and criminal. A “Middleman,” who only cares about money…? Does He/She know how to store the cannabis from Mold..? Does He/She care about quality, or is He/She a Lowball artist only concerned with profit.? Probably so. The Whole MMJ movement would suffer. But, the curs that we call “leaders” know no other method. They are like horrible, abusive parents – who say, “here you go, but…… not so fast…” “WE will make the rules.”

    So far, the money people who have tried to co-opt the MMJ system have failed miserably. Just like it happened in Canada. But, they keep trying. Screw the Little Guy, as Robin says – seems to be the dictum.

  5.  

    is this about mmj? If so let me say in 2009 I gave meds away for free. Since the laws changed they took my care giving license, said patients cant distribute to patients and nickle and dime the law to its current state. Its about helping sick people. FUCK the money!

  6.  

    I am 5 years disabled 31yo born and raised in Lincoln,Nebraska and a senator from Bellevue introduced a medical cannabis compassionate care bill for consideration. He did this only because he himself had watched someone close to him suffer witch changed his outlook on the matter.
    Unfortunately it was immediately attacked and scraped away at by several other bills introduced others in order to place huge restrictions on the bill, such as making any edible a felony.
    Finally it was reduced to be similar to what I think Minnesota’s bill but at least it was something! AMAZINGLY it passed overwhelmingly 7 to 1 ! But our asshole new Governor ( Pete Rickets) undid all the work and overruled the votes and vetoed the proposed bill?
    Meanwhile I am desperate to get off of the poisonous pain medication and hopefully be done with having needles stabbed in my spine to burn away the nerves so that hopefully I am not in such constant pain. I’ve discovered that cannabis has improved my quality of life significantly. But I cannot use it lessmy pain Dr. Will be forced to terminate my care!!!??? Even though he supports it 100% and we are talking about a pain specialist people! It has already happened once with my family Dr. Of more than a decade and she wept on the. phone to my mom for 20 minutes about it but due to the.
    strictlaws associated with these new “pain contracts” witch are a result of thethe rampi

  7.  

    Hello everybody,

    I actually agree with the tax rate.

    I have been working with multiple cities over the last few months to try and open them up to the idea of provisioning centers. There are many cities that have statutes for marijuana facilities that go by the one caregiver, five patients rule. Even these cities were not open to the idea of having provisioning centers because they did not have any intent to have dispensaries when they put the ordinance in place. Certainly, through additional education, many of these city planner could be turned around on the idea and cities like Flint and Ypsilanti will be on board immediately. That said, the easiest way I have been able to get cities to listen is to mention the tax incentives.

    The bill is currently on its seventh draft and this article was written after the fifth so maybe it has changed substantially but the current draft allows for a 50/50 split of the tax money with the municipalities that allow provisioning centers. This is an enormous incentive for cities to become a part of this. If this bill passes and the cities get no tax revenue from it, it will be much harder to get them to adopt it. Just my thoughts.

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