On Thursday May 03, 2012 The Michigan House of Representatives approved four bills with the intent of clarifying and reforming the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. The bills will now head to the state’s Senate before being made into law. The bills passed with bipartisan support, although many medical marijuana supporters believe the bills to be restrictive on patient’s rights.
There were over 150 protesters outside the state’s capital while the House of Representatives were voting on the bills. The biggest complaint from protesters was regarding House Bill 4834 (HB 4834). HB 4834 calls for picture identification on Michigan Medical Marihuana Patient identification cards and to have a database of registered medical marihuana patients available to law enforcement personnel on the law enforcement information network (LIEN).
This measure would make it easier for law enforcement personnel to verify that a person’s medical marihuana patient registration card is authentic, however, dissidents of the bill believe it will allow law enforcement personnel to target medical marihuana patients and caregivers. Currently prosecutors are charging patients and caregivers with misdemeanors and felonies claiming they are not protected under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act if they in any way fail to conform to restrictions set out in Section 4 of the act; even if the failure is minute and in regards to the smallest detail. Thus, patients and caregivers fear law enforcement and prosecutors will use the information that will be added to the LIEN database to target and harass them, and charge them with serious crimes for even the smallest failure to comply with section 4 of the act.
Also of concern is House bill 4856 (HB 4856) which regulates the manner in which medical marihuana may be transported in cars. It states that medical marijuana must be enclosed in a case and carried in the trunk of a vehicle or enclosed in a case that is not readily accessible from the interior of the vehicle if the vehicle does not have a trunk. There are no similar rules for prescription drugs which have much more severe effects on a person’s ability to drive. Dissidents are curious what the need for this restriction is. Why is it only focused on medical marihuana and not other prescription drugs?
House Bill 4851 (HB 4851) clarifies the definition of “physician patient relationship” which is required for a physician to certify a patient in order for that person to qualify for registration as a medical marihuana patient. This is an issue which has been highly debated in courts, and definitely needed clarification. House Bill 4853 (HB 4853) lays out the sentencing guidelines for violation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act which also was leading to confusion in Michigan Courts.
The Bills have positive aspects but generally can allow for targeting and harassment from law enforcement personnel. The spirit of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act is to allow safe access to medical marijuana for people who have legitimate medical need; these reforms do not seem to serve that sentiment.