Group seeks reforms of medical marijuana law

Gary Heinlein
The Detroit News

Lansing — The leaders of a marijuana advocacy group say they’re prepared to sponsor a ballot proposal reforming Michigan’s medical marijuana law in 2016 if lawmakers don’t approve legislation this year allowing provisioning centers and edible forms of cannabis.

The Michigan Responsibility Council has decided “to set aside efforts for full legalization” of marijuana use and focus on helping lawmakers shape pending House legislation, council board Chairman Paul Welday said Thursday.

Welday said two bills in a House committee headed by Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, seem to be “moving in a positive direction” toward legalizing centers where various forms of medical cannabis could be purchased, as well as a state regulatory regime to oversee growing and distribution of marijuana.

The Responsibility Council has drawn up a draft plan it would prefer but also supports efforts by Callton to craft reform legislation. Welday said the council would have to finalize its own plan and begin circulating petitions toward a ballot measure early next year if lawmakers are unable to act.

Callton’s committee drew up legislation that passed the House late last year but was stymied in the Senate in December by a late blitz of criticism from law enforcement agencies, as well as opposition from key lawmakers.

The prospects for such reforms remain uncertain this year. Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, is among majority Republicans in the Senate who’ve expressed little enthusiasm for expanding provisions in the medical marijuana act voters approved in 2008.

The law has been troubled by wrangling over the legality of marijuana dispensaries and questions about whether it restricts the use of cannabis to smoking or allows the use of other forms. Advocates say edible forms, such as droplets, are the only appropriate way to use it for treating children who suffer from seizures, autism or other disorders.

If the Responsibility Council ends up pushing a medical marijuana ballot measure in 2016, it could result in three proposals involving the drug. Two groups are circulating petitions for proposed votes on legalization of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

Tim Beck, senior adviser to the organization, said the regulatory regime proposed by the group also would provide a good format for oversight of recreational marijuana use if voters approved a ballot measure allowing that.

The Responsibility Council still is not revealing its financial backers, but Beck said it would be able fund a ballot campaign if necessary.

“Make no mistake, we have the resources to do this,” he said.