By Rick Thompson
I am on several email groupings, tools of activism that give instant communication to the state’s cannabis reform leadership, who then take the information and pass the message along. We knew, from the Michigan.gov website, that the House Judiciary Committee was going to meet on the 29th to take up the question of the package of bills aimed at changing the Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). What we didn’t know was the nature and subject of the meeting, or that they would be voting on the bills. Last night after 5PM Chairman Walsh sent out an email to the Judiciary Committee members and interested parties containing the proposed changes to the bills, which were passed in a Committee meeting that began today at 8:30AM. Is this the best we can do? Are these actions in the best interest of the people?
The lack of advance notice is reprehensible. The Committee has heard enough from the public, apparently, and required that any additional input from the citizens, the voters, the people who sign their paychecks, be delivered in writing. 30 copies delivered by 8:30 or your words are ignored. There are no oral presentations from citizens on the House floor. How does one prepare a written response to changes in these bills when those changes are announced less than 24 hours before the meeting? Citizens of Livonia, this is how Walsh, the man you chose to represent you, conducts business.
What of the Committee members, whose vote was recorded today? They have three bills to evaluate, to read and understand and cast their vote on, with very little time to evaluate or to seek advice. The proposed changes were not published, not on the Internet, they were not made available to the general public unless they showed up in Lansing at 8:30 and read the printed versions. The Internet source is on a special mailing list not available to the public and properly shared this information with the compassionate community. Is it good government, is good law being created, when the veil of secrecy is cloaked about the proceedings in this way? Expedience at the expense of transparency is contradictory to the Constitution.
Those changes that were adopted today: are they the result of input from citizens or are they further manipulations of the House by special interest groups? When last the House heard from patients and concerned citizens, there were nine
issues wrapped up in three bills, and only three of those issues would make it easier for patients to register and survive in Michigan. Of those three, only one remains in a positive form in the bills passed today.
The Prosecuting Attorneys have more power than the people in our state. One of the proposed changes, which every patient and advocate who testified in the House agreed with and supported, was to force the court system to allow juries to hear the medical marijuana defense in Section 8 cases. That has been altered to reflect language submitted by the ACLU; resistance from the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan will make it difficult to receive the Â¾ majority vote required to change the MMA unless they give a nod of approval. Voter approved, Prosecutor rejected. Special interests win.
Placing photographs on the ID cards for patients and caregivers received a mostly favorable response from the people during the time we were allowed to give testimony. The ease with which the Secretary of State could transfer an image from their department to LARA for purposes of creating valid cards is real and was detailed in previous testimony. The new version of HB 4834 requires patients and caregivers to provide two copies of their photo, on their own, with no help from your driver’s license. Why two copies? One for the card and one for their records. Patients might provide a picture without the proper size, or dimensions, or that features a hat or sunglasses. Each of these issues will cause the application to be rejected and impede the registration process, which is the real goal here. Make it difficult for people to get cards and they’ll stop registering, which again services the special interest groups demanding a reduction in the number of enrollees in the MMA.
Making the program a mandatory 2 year registration is a good thing- it gives sick people less hassle and their medical condition isn’t likely to change in 2 years. HB 4834 creates the 2 year registration system but does not prevent LARA from doubling the fees. Sick people on a fixed disability income are having trouble meeting the $100 annual requirement for maintaining your MMA status; if LARA doubles the fees, which they WILL do as soon as they can get away with it, the MMA will be too pricey for the people it was designed to protect. Another move designed to reduce the number of registrants in the MMA.
The House bills raise new issues, too, including one that would force LARA to hear testimony for adding new ailments to the list of qualifying conditions- despite Sen. Jones’ attempt to remove glaucoma from it. Read my blog next week and the remaining changes proposed by these bills will be examined. For links to the complete text of the Committee-approved House bills, visit: