State lawmakers continue to work to clarify the state medical marijuana law

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Pubdate: Thu, 18 Aug 2011
Source: Livonia Observer (MI)
Copyright: 2011 Observer & Eccentric Newspapers
Author: Ken Abramczyk, Livonia Observer Staff Writer


State lawmakers continue to work to clarify the state medical
marijuana law.

State Rep. John Walsh, R-Livonia, said lawmakers have introduced eight
bills in attempts to make the law “safe and effective.” Walsh expects
another four bills to be introduced at a later date.

Walsh, who chairs the House Judiciary Committee, appeared at a press
conference last week with Attorney General Bill Schuette and a doctor
from the Michigan State Medical Society to highlight the legislation,
which Walsh said will help better define the relationships between
patient and caregiver before medical marijuana is administered.

Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in
November 2008. Walsh said he was shocked to learn that since voters
approved the law, 56 doctors have issued 40,000 medical marijuana
certificates in Michigan, some with nothing more than a communication
over the Internet.

“That (number) on its face tells me something is terribly wrong,”
Walsh said. “And many physicians are concerned about getting involved
because of the lack of regulation.”

Defining relationships

Dr. Steven Newman, a neurologist in Southfield and president of the
Michigan State Medical Society, said the voter initiative “did not
allow for easy implementation.”

Newman believes physicians should conduct a thorough physical
examination and investigation on patients before medical marijuana is
prescribed. Newman said the society’s mission is to promote good
health, and preserve the quality and ethics in medical practices.

“We’re supportive of the legislation because it helps define what is a
bona fide physician-patient relationship,” Newman said.

Schuette said the law “has been hijacked by pot profiteers who
threaten public safety on the roads and in our communities.”

Schuette also proposed legislative reforms to address the lack of
penalties to criminals who submit fraudulent patient and caregiver
applications or fraudulent physician certifications. Schuette has
proposed the creation of new laws to crack down on criminal abuse of
the medical marijuana certification system, including prohibiting
felons from becoming caregivers.

Schuette proposed legislation to strengthen laws on drugged driving,
limiting criminal access to medical marijuana, empowering local
communities to regulate marijuana facilities, ensuring standards for
patient care and avoiding confusion and excessive litigation regarding
insurance claims and coverage for medical marijuana users.

Schuette wants to make it a felony for physicians to knowingly give
false certification for patients’ debilitating conditions or knowingly
submit false information on patient or caregiver application cards.

A crackdown on dispensaries

Walsh believes the state needs to crack down on dispensaries,
particularly on one stretch of road near the state’s Capitol. “I don’t
think anyone who voted for the law intended for there to be 83
dispensaries on one of the main roads in Ingham County,” Walsh said.

Walsh also was contacted by someone who had a medical marijuana card,
but was not receiving it because the caregiver she was using only
wanted her card to allow them to sell it. That caregiver proceeded to
sell it on the black market. “That card gives them a license to grow
it,” Walsh said.

Walsh also expects legislation will be introduced that provides
guidelines to growing medical marijuana, including what herbicides and
fertilizer will be used.

Newman said medical marijuana is prescribed by doctors for chronic
neurological diseases, a loss of weight due to chemotherapy or
HIV/AIDS, hepatitis C and Crohn’s disease.

But the FDA has not endorsed medical marijuana as a treatment, Newman

The Michigan State Medical Society has examined similar legislation in
Colorado, which has had medical marijuana for about 10 years, and
forwarded that information to state lawmakers, a spokeswoman for the
doctor’s group said.

Walsh expects hearings will be conducted in the fall on the
legislative package.
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