Police, health groups oppose marijuana bills

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — Officials representing law enforcement and health workers urged Wednesday that lawmakers not pass bills that would permit medical marijuana dispensaries and “edible” forms of cannabis during the lame-duck session.

The legislation, which has passed the House and is among many bills pending on the Senate floor, contains too many risks to be adequately addressed during the two days remaining before the Legislature adjourns for the year, they argued at a press conference.

“We’re concerned they’re rushing this through in lame duck when it should be vetted more thoroughly,” said Terrence Jungel, executive director of the Michigan Sheriff’s Association.

Jungel and Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police Executive Director Robert Stevenson said police and health officials have had too little opportunity to comment on the measures.

“Never did anybody contact local law enforcement; never were we allowed to be involved or were we invited to be involved about the concerns,” Jungel charged.

Republican Rep. Mike Callton of Nashville, sponsor of the dispensary bill, took issue with the statements. He was meeting informally with senators Wednesday to push for passage of his bill.

“We’ve been working two years on this, and now they hold a press conference?” he said. “We started this last year and ran out of time. They’ve had lots of time to get their issues addressed.”

The criticism comes as Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville, R-Monroe, has been telling Capitol reporters he still hopes to pass the legislation this year.

One bill would permit marijuana provisioning centers, now illegal in Michigan, to buy and sell cannabis from medical marijuana card holders or licensed growers. The other would legalize marijuana-infused foods, or “medibles,” for consumption by medical marijuana card holders.

Jungel said the legislation would result in “a for-profit drug distribution business in the state of Michigan” with “very lax” record-keeping or regulation. He said local law enforcement agencies mostly would be barred from access to information about medical marijuana transactions.

Meghan Swain, executive director of the Michigan Association for Local Public Health representing 45 health departments, said the edibles bill could result in a “cottage industry” creating cannabis-laced foods — “folks who make these products in their own homes and are not regulated within a certain amount of their gross receipts.”

Callton said he sees nothing wrong with developing a small “home-grown industry” in Michigan with dispensaries and products for medical marijuana users, as opposed to sales and distribution through criminal activity.

Every ounce of marijuana sold through a state-registered provisioning center to a registered medical marijuana user is an ounce not bought and sold through cartels or organized crime syndicates, he argued.

The three said lawmakers should leave the proposals for the next Legislature, which would have more time to look into their concerns.