Dec 052012
 December 5, 2012

michigan medical marijuana stone soupTitles 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 2011-2012BILL NUMBERDATESTATUS OF PROPOSAL
HOUSE BILLS
Restrict gatherings of medical marijuana patientsHB 4397Mar-11Dropped by House/companion to SB 17
Prohibit all felons from becoming caregiversHB 4463Mar-11Dropped by House/language added to HB 4851
Marijuana activities must be 500′ away from church/schoolHB 4661May-11Dropped by House
Registry violation for selling to non-registered patientsHB 4661May-11Dropped by House
Require photos on MMA cardsHB 4834Jun-11Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Allow MMA applications to constitute probable causeHB 4834Jun-11Dropped by House
Allow patient database access by law enforcement via name and DOBHB 4834Jun-11Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Allow patient database access by law enforcement via LEIN systemHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Allow patient database access by contractorsHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Require probable cause prior to database inquiryHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/rejected by LARA/Dropped by Senate
Allow privatization of MMAHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Require privatization of MMA within 1 yearHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Require New Conditions panel to meetHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Establish a 15-member maximum on New Conditions panelHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Require Chief Medical Exec. And Pain Management Cmtee. on PanelHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Adopt rules and responsibilities for PanelHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Collect all MMA revenue into Medical Marijuana FundHB 4834 (Senate S-4)Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House
Give database access to park rangers, security guards, constables, othersHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Cards valid for 2 yearsHB 4834Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Restrict transfers to only patient- assigned caregiverHB 4850Jun-11Dropped by House
Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- in person assessmentHB 4851Jun-11Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- require prior relationshipHB 4851Jun-11Dropped- contrary to accepted medical practice
Modify the Dr.-patient relationship- require follow up treatment/examsHB 4851Jun-11Dropped by House
Modify the dr.-patient relationship- optional notification to primary dr.HB 4851Jun-11Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Completely enclosed indoor growing areaHB 4851Jun-11Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Require psychological evaluation of patientHB 4851Jun-11Dropped- contrary to accepted medical practice
Restrict indoor plant access to one gardener onlyHB 4851Jun-11Dropped by House
Require relevant medical recordsHB 4851Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Authorize outdoor growingHB 4851 (Version H-7)Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Allow plants to be transported in a moving vehicleHB 4851Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Ban on caregivers for assaultive crimesHB 4851Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Guarantee Section 8 Defense to trier of factHB 4851Mar-12Passed by House/Dropped in Senate version
Outdoor grows not visible to anyoneHB 4851 (Senate V-2)Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House
Ban on caregivers for all felonies within 10 yearsHB 4851 (Senate V-2)Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House
Require MMA card AND driver license for arrest protectionsHB 4851 (Senate V-2)Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House
Require Michigan residency for patientsHB 4851 (Senate V-2)Passed by House; Requires passage by Senate/House
Honor local ordinances restricting marijuana cultivationHB 4852Jun-11Dropped by House
Assigns a Criminal Code to violations already contained in MMAHB 4853Jun-11Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Restrict advertising of medical marijuanaHB 4854Jun-11Dropped by House/unconstitutional
Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car- case/trunkHB 4856Jun-11Dropped by House
Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car- trunk onlyHB 4856Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car/$100 fineHB 4856Jun-11Dropped by House
Establish rules for transporting useable marijuana in a car/$500 fineHB 4856Mar-12Passed by House/awaiting Senate approval
Require LARA to verify patient status to issue warrantsHB 5286Jan-12Dropped by House
Creates Provisioning Centers for distributing medical marijuanaHB 5580May-12Dropped by House
Establish Marijuana Pharmaceutical IndustryHB 5681May-12Dropped by House
SENATE BILLS
Bans patients congregating togetherSB 17Jan-11Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Exempt insurance companies from medical marijuana expensesSB 321Apr-11Passed Senate 3/2012: awaiting House approval
Create parallel patient database within MSPSB 377May-11Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Protect state/local governments from lawsuits related to the MMASB 418Jun-11Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Restrict marijuana activities to 1000 ft from church/schoolSB 504Jun-11Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Ban felons from becoming caregiversSB 505Jun-11Passed Senate 6/2011: awaiting House approval
Mandatory notification to primary care physicianSB 505Jun-11Dropped by Senate/companion to HB 4851
Require prior Dr.-patient relationship before recommendationSB 506Jun-11Dropped by Senate/companion to HB 4851
Exempt employers from medical marijuana expensesSB 0933Feb-12Passed Senate 5/2012: awaiting House approval
Restrict marijuana use from private property open to publicSB 0974Feb-12Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Eliminate glaucoma from list of qualifying conditionsSB0977Feb-12Passed committee, awaiting approval by House/Senate
Establish Marijuana Pharmaceutical IndustrySB 1349Oct-12Dropped 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

About Johnny Green

Johnny Green is a marijuana activist from Oregon. He has a Bachelor's Degree in Public Policy. Follow Johnny Green on Facebook and Twitter. Also, feel free to email any concerns.
  • c0ry

    wow very confusing and contradictory bills indeed.ive been considering getting my mich residency to become a caregiver for a while,but at this point im not so sure.whos to say what these “rules for transporting usable medicine” are?crooked politicians or cops?everyone would be much better off if the fed just legalized it already.

  • Burlwood Barry

    If your representative does not sufficiently represent you, it is your obligation to remove them from the position of power you granted them and replace them with someone who does represent you. Brought to you by the founding fathers of the U.S.

  • http://www.facebook.com/terry.pepper.18 Terry Pepper

    red tape what a waste of OUR money & these people wont do anything else 2 fix our better known problems . take forinstance here in grand rapids they r cutting police & fire by 10% that real nice lets cut at our schools 2 . why is it so hard 2 just let it pass & get it overwith . our prison system here is over populated by pot posetions here is where the money is being spent & all these asses in michigan want to keep them there but people keep on killing & they get less time than a person with possesion of pot . our prison system is a joke say a judge a inmate needs anger management if he does not get into the class by the he is up 4 prole he is granted another year of stay till he gets it & our system is sending a message of what 2 people that offend by just having possesion of pot . pass the freaking laws & free up our money 2 concentrate on things we as tax payers need .

  • Eddie273273

    A ban on patients of meeting together …. That’s a complete violation of the Constitution and Bill of Rights he77 most of what these republicans want passed is CLEARLY UNCONSTITUTIONAL .
    That’s it Michigan voters keep electing republicans who don’t give a crap about what you want . Democracy what a joke in Michigan . Republicans they spit in your face .

  • Patient1982

    Been watching these bills for over a year… Specifically 4834, watch out because the language of the bill was changed so all patient records will be accessible by LEIN ( police computers)… There is nothing in the bill claiming a police officer has to use discretion, so basically don’t drive anyone you wouldn’t want knowing your personal medical information.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sam.browning.144 Sam Browning

    it seems to me that some of these thing were put into bills with good intentions while others are clearly malicious the issue about felons not being caregivers is the most ridiculous issue because they at one point they broke a law my care giver was in prison 10 years ago and has led a law abiding life since then but because he made a mistake when he was a kid he shouldn’t be allowed to take care of me that’s ludicrous i have met individuals with non felon care givers that say they are unhappy with the care they receive yet i have an excellent care giver and the state wants to put a stop to that because he is a felon. some of the men involved in writing these bills could be considered far worse criminals that a felon that cares about the people in his comunity