Changes in Michigan Medical Marihuana Act
After four years of no change in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, and after almost two years of legislative posturing, on December 14, 2012 at around 4 a.m. the Michigan legislature in lame duck session rushed through several bills pertaining to medical marijuana.
It appears that the amendments take effect April 1, 2013, although the final versions of the legislation, the enrolled bills, have yet to be posted.
There were numerous bills passed immediately before the state legislature adjourned for the year, completing a two year legislative session, where all bills die at the end of the session, with new bills to be introduced (or reintroduced, as it were) beginning in January.
A major change affecting medical marijuana patients and caregivers is the creation of a new misdemeanor offense if a person transports usable marihuana in a motor vehicle or any self-propelled vehicle designed for land travel unless either (a) enclosed in a case in the trunk, or (b) if no trunk in the vehicle then enclosed in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle. Violation carries a maximum 93 days and/or $500 fine. (House Bill 4856)
Another major change is that applicants will need to submit proof of Michigan residency, and cards will be valid for two years. The same legislation also codifies rules of the review panel which has met just recently to consider addition of new qualifying medical conditions. It also allows privatization of card processing, and created a segregated fund and requires those funds to be spent for operation and oversight of the program. In four years, the program has generated over eight million dollars in revenue (after expenditures) for the State of Michigan. (HB 4834)
Another large piece of legislation requires that physicians complete a full assessment of the patients medical history and current condition including an in-person evaluation, maintain records in accordance with accepted standards, have a reasonable expectation that she will provide follow-up care to the patient to monitor the efficacy of the use of medical marijuana as a treatment for the patient, and if granted permission by the patient, has notified the patient’s primary care physician of the patients condition and certification for the use of medical marijuana.
The same bill attempts to clarify the definition of “enclosed, locked facility” where plants may be grown, by requiring that it be stationary, and a locked, fully enclosed area. New language requires that “marijuana plants grown outdoors are considered to be in an enclosed, locked facility if they are not visible to the unaided eye from an adjacent property when viewed by an individual at ground level or from a permanent structure and are grown within a stationary structure that is enclosed on all sides, except the base, by chain-link fencing, wooden slats, or a similar material that prevents access by the general public and that is anchored, attached or affix to the ground, located on land that is owned, leased, or rented” by the registered grower and restricted to that grower’s access.
Plants may be transported only when a vehicle is used temporarily to transport living marijuana plants from one location to another with the intent to permanently retain those plants at the second location. Only the patient and caregiver may be in the vehicle.
This new law prohibits persons from being a caregiver if convicted of any felony within ten years, or an assaultive felony, in addition to the existing prohibition on caregivers having felony drug convictions. Further, a patient will be protected from arrest only if she can present both her medical marijuana card and drivers license or state identification card. (HB 4851)
Another bill adopts guidelines for the crime of selling to a person without a card, a two year maximum offense (HB 4853)
And two other bills provide that in a workers compensation matter that the employer is not require to reimburse charges for medical marijuana treatment (SB 933), nor shall a no-fault automobile insurer be required to provide coverage for the use of medical marijuana (HB 321)
Thankfully, the legislature has now adjourned for the year.
Matthew R. Abel
Attorney at Law
Cannabis Counsel, P.L.C.
Executive Director, Michigan NORML
Lifetime Member, NORML Legal Committee