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House panel OKs bills requiring warning labels for marijuana

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News

Lansing — Two bills requiring marijuana businesses to include product warnings for minors and pregnant or breastfeeding women advanced Tuesday out of a Michigan House committee. 

The bills would require medical and recreational pot businesses to include a label warning people about marijuana use while pregnant. It also would require the businesses to provide customers a pamphlet on marijuana use by minors at point of sale. 

The legislation stemmed from concerns by a Saginaw area doctor who said he was seeing an increase in pregnant and breastfeeding women who were using marijuana, said Rep. Thomas Albert, one of the bill’s sponsors. The Lowell Republican introduced a similar measure last term for medical marijuana.

“We think it’s worthwhile to notify women that if they’re pregnant or breastfeeding that there could be some long-term effects for the children if they use marijuana,” Albert said.

The House Judiciary Committee approved 11-2 Albert’s bill addressing recreational marijuana and its medical marijuana companion from Rep. Daire Rendon, R- Lake City. 

The warning label for breast feeding would read: 

“Warning: Use by pregnant or breastfeeding women, or by women planning to become pregnant, may result in fetal injury, preterm birth, low birth weight, or developmental problems for the child.”

The Legislature would leave the wording of the pamphlet to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency for development, but the bills require the pamphlets to at least be 3.5 inches by 5 inches in size and contain safety information and the Poison Control hotline. 

Rep. Beau LaFave was one of two GOP legislators to vote against the measures. The Iron Mountain Republican said he believes the efficacy of warnings like the ones proposed in the legislation decreases with frequency. 

"I certainly don’t want anybody that is carrying a child to use marijuana but I don’t think putting a warning label on it is going to discourage the use of anything," he said.

The Marijuana Regulatory Agency is supportive of the bills, which will add to existing rules on product safety warnings, said Executive Director Andrew Brisbo. Agency rules already require labeling that lists data about the drug as well as the Poison Control hotline, warnings to keep the medicine out of reach of children and notice that it is illegal to drive under the influence of marijuana. 

"All of these standards when it comes to health, safety, and welfare are an evolving topic,” Brisbo said. 

The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association is neutral on the bill but thankful for changes lawmakers made before moving the bill from committee Tuesday, said Josh Hovey, a spokesman for the association. 

Part of those changes was a clarification that would allow businesses to “simply make the required warning pamphlets available to customers rather than handing one out with every single purchase,” Hovey said.