Cops to Senate: Eliminate the Marijuana Caregiver System In Michigan
07 Dec, 2015
by Rick Thompson/December 7, 2015
LANSING- On November 10, representatives of the Michigan Chiefs of Police (MCP), Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM), Michigan State Police (MSP) and the Michigan Sheriffs Association (MSA) gave testimony in the Senate Judiciary on a trio of medical marijuana bills proposing to establish new dispensary laws and change current language in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
House Bills 4209, 4210 and 4827 were not actually brought up for consideration- even though the testimony was all directed at the content of those bills. Committee Chair Sen. Rick Jones allowed only these specially-selected groups to tell him what they want him to change. No citizens were allowed to testify, just cops and lawyers. The next Judiciary Committee meeting, December 8 at 1 pm, promises to offer amendments to the three-bill package that reflect the wishes expressed during the last Committee hearing on the subject.
In the absence of any voice that could offer a contrary position or could make a challenge to the statements, the dialog was hyperbole and propaganda. On Nov. 10, PAAM performed more like a group of hand-wringing mothers than seasoned courtroom litigators.
“Potency!” they cried. “The Dispensary Issue!” they said.
Senator Jones upped the hype.
“I toured a dispensary in Detroit and one in Lansing,” he said. “It is the wild wild west out there. Caregivers are selling their overages to dispensaries.”
Sheriff Wrigglesworth made a ridiculous supporting statement. “It has been our experience that these dispensaries sell other drugs as well,” he said, trying to cite this vague reference as a reason why current dispensary owners don’t want random inspections from law enforcement.
Testimony from prosecutors and law enforcement was, as you can imagine, one-sided and decidedly anti-patient. You can watch the video yourself by clicking on THE SENATE WEBSITE.
Adam Macdonald of the NPRA recently revealed that it was likely an amendment introducing a three-tiered system to control medical marijuana distribution like the broken booze system would be introduced into the bill language as an amendment during the Dec. 8 session. The revelation came with a strong warning from the pro-patient organization: do not go there.
Here are the law enforcement community’s top statements and demands for changes to the dispensary/concentrates/seed-to-sale bills before the Committee:
1. Let’s Get Rid of the Caregiver System
The first group to testify about the three bills that were really not actually being heard by the Committee was PAAM.
“The Dispensary Issue… If we are able to set a process in place that sets dispensaries and distributes these products, we would hope that the caregivers, over a period of time, would be phased out… Maybe as we move into the adoption of this statute, this law, we can phase that (caregiver) process out.”
Next to speak were the MCP representatives.
Wrigglesworth said: “We firmly believe that caregivers should not in any way be allowed to sell any product, or any excess product, to growers or provisioning centers.”
MSP realized that the bills contain language that still allows caregivers to sell their seeds and seedlings to dispensaries and others. “We cannot allow caregivers to profit in any way” from this program, Sgt. Denner said. The MSP wants to “phase out or completely get rid of the caregiver model.”
“After this system gets up and running, there will be no need for caregivers to grow products,” Wrigglesworth said.
These bills do not address repealing the caregiver model, but Jones and others suggested a sunset clause that would phase caregivers completely out within a few years of the program’s full activation.
And, until then, let’s hassle these people as much as we can. MSA says caregivers should be subject to the same inspection obligations and transport requirements as 1,500-plant grows or multi-million dollar dispensary locations. How would you like an armored car pulling up in front of your house and armed men trampling through your living room just to take cannabis from your hands to your patient’s home two miles away?
They’d also like to see HB 4827- the seed-to-sale lifetime tracking system- be mandatory for home-based patient and caregiver grows, too.
As usual, Sen. Rick Jones talked out of both sides of his mouth. “While the goal of this legislation is not to get rid of the caregiver section of what was done at the ballot initiative by the vote, I am aware it is very dangerous… that (home-based cultivation of marijuana) is a great danger to a neighborhood,” he said. Jones cited a recent incident where there was a gun battle in Lansing at the home of a caregiver as evidence that the caregiver model brings danger to the general populace.
2. We Can Never Support Medical Marijuana
Again the concept that cops get to choose which laws they follow and which they ignore was repeated and reinforced.
PAAM said they supported the legislation, then corrected to say they are neutral with recommendations. Ken Stecker, the usual and far more capable mouthpiece for the lawyer’s organization, sat next to the presenter and looked around the room as if wondering why he was sitting at the podium in the first place.
“Law enforcement cannot support any legislation that by definition is illegal under federal law,” regarding a substance that is federally illegal, said the MCP. Th best “we can do is find a position not to oppose…” the package of bills, if tightly regulated (see 4 below).
“Michigan Sheriffs Association can never agree with (medical marijuana law) as a policy,” Wrigglesworth said. Never? Even if we make it state law?
Hey, Buster, who signs your paychecks? It ain’t Obama.
3. Edibles Are Bad Food
PAAM took issue with the nature of edible packaging and marketing, even though those concerns are already addressed in HB 4210, and went so far as to cite medibles that look like Oreo cookies as an example of behavior requiring correction.
If you check your stats, you’ll see that the largest consumer group of Oreo cookies is adults 21 and older. Vodka bottles have cartoonish character drawings on them. So does beer. Frozen alcoholic drinks look just like children’s desserts. If we assume parents are responsible enough to keep these things away from kids, why would we not assume they are responsible enough to keep cannabis away, too? Especially since the only people participating in this system are doctor-certified sick individuals.
PAAM testimony included these phrases:
PAAM is very concerned about “the potency of these products, the edibles and the hash oil…” and wants the legislation to reflect some fix. Despite labeling guidelines already contained in the bills, PAAM feels that “the potency is unknown to the user…”
Read the bills before testifying. Labeling language is already pretty stout. And didn’t the Michigan State Police Crime Lab say they can’t tell the quantity of THC in a product and therefore cannot verify the actual potency of the medible? Yes… yes, I believe they did.
4. Cars And Cannabis
The prosecuting attorneys also took issue with the language covering driving while under the influence of marijuana. Prosecutors would like to expand the ability for police to detain you and question your level of consumption. The language mentions intoxication, for which there is no set standard in law, “but it leaves off impairment,” they complained. Impairment is a subjective evaluation performed at the roadside. Some Michigan police officers have been trained as Drug Recognition Experts (DRE’s). The MCP said they want an increase in the number of DREs certified in the state, to handle the supposed explosion of users driving while impaired. They’d also like it if the potheads paid for it with the currently-3%-going to be-8%-again excise tax.
The Michigan driver’s Implied Consent law should be expanded to include marijuana, meaning the act of becoming licensed to drive automatically gives LEO the right to check you for impairment, like they do with Breathalyzers. Refuse one on the roadside and you lose your license and face charges. Get ready for those oral swab tests that we stopped them from doing during the last legislative session.
The MSP have “a concern about these cases as well,” Denner said. Because voluntary reporting yields fluctuating numbers regarding marijuana content in driver’s blood in post-accident issues, they’d like to increase the MSP’s “efforts to enhance our roadside detection capability”- read that as, we want the oral swab tests the marijuana community stopped last year.
5. You Can’t Have Your Cake And Eat It, Too
The MCP testified that they “strongly believe that an essential piece of the bill needs to be that medical marijuana patients declare, at the time of registration, if they are using a dispensary or a caregiver but not both.” The Chiefs of Police propose that your choice be printed on your card.
Maybe they just don’t get it that it takes a plant 4 months to grow from seed to harvest, and the drying/curing process adds time afterward before cannabis is ready to be distributed. For patients to have access to medical marijuana, there is a strong need for access to both caregiver and dispensary distribution venues.
6. Money And Respect
Recently the MSA were granted a special seat on the proposed medical marijuana dispensary advisory Board created by the language of HB 4209. Suddenly, the Chiefs of Police want one, too, and they asked for it in the Senate Judiciary.
Current language in the bills gives 5% of the excise tax collected by the state on medical marijuana transfers to the county Sheriffs. Money from that fund is also allocated for local communities, too, but the Chiefs complained that their local governments won’t give it to them. Those monies would “quickly be absorbed by general fund budgets,” the Chiefs said, so they want “an additional” 5% like the Sheriffs got.
MCP suggested the money be directed to MCOLES, the Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards, for training purposes. “Stable funding has been elusive,” Wrigglesworth admitted, but looks to cannabis as a solution to the budget problem.
“This would benefit law enforcement, prosecutors and judges equally,” he said, but failed to mention any benefit to the actual people law enforcement is likely to encounter: medical marijuana patients.
“It’s necessary to find a workable, dedicated funding mechanism for local law enforcement agencies,” he told the Committee, but the real story is that they don’t trust their Mayors and City Councils to write them the proper check.
7. BHO is a dangerous product and should be banned altogether
PAAM testimony included these phrases:
“That process by which hash oil is created from marijuana is a dangerous process… it is prohibited in a residential setting; (the prohibition) should also be extended to a commercial setting.
The ban on BHO production in residential areas “should also be extended to a commercial setting…”
Their lack of confidence in marijuana producers- even gigantic commercial ones- to safely produce medicine for patients implies a distrust in the entire process. Why are we listening to these guys, anyway?
8. Access To Your Assets At Any Time
The MCP and MSA both want to ensure the ability of local law enforcement to inspect all medical marijuana facilities, any place, any time, just like the State Police can, which sounds reasonable enough. Until you start defining people’s homes as marijuana facilities.
The MCP asked for access to provisioning centers, transportation, storage and manufacturing facilities for inspections.
What about the MMMA’s privacy provisions? Out the window. Local law enforcement should have access to the LARA MM patient and caregiver registry database and all licensing databases, MCP said.
Of course he’d say that. Local LEO wants to know who in their town is registered as a caregiver, but that information is denied to them by language of a bill passed by popular vote of the people. An unpopular vote begun by a small group of Senators could change the privacy standards, if an amendment to HB 4210 were to include a provision like that. HB 4210 is the only one of the three bills that actually amends the Act itself, and is the only vehicle for direct change to the language of the MMMA.
9. Even caregiver-to-patient transactions?
MCP thinks that all marijuana sold anywhere should have packaging and labels that follow the model established for medibles- including raw cannabis flower, or buds.
The Chiefs of Police: “The current bill provides some provision for labeling dosing and THC levels on medibles… We strongly believe these (medibles packaging) standards also need to be applied to the raw plant base and smokable forms of marijuana as well.”
Later testimony included references to holding individual caregivers to the same standards the commercial producers are being asked to honor. Caregivers don’t have money for a seed-to-sale tracking system, nor do they need to label cannabis packaged for their patient to consume.
10. Ratios Are Out Of Whack
MCP believe there needs to be a total redo on the “conversion rate” included in the bills, not relying on weight and volume to define how much a patient can legally possess at any given time.
“Instead of weight we should consider THC quantity,” Denner suggested, perhaps forgetting that she herself testified in front of multiple legislative bodies saying the Michigan State Police Crime Lab cannot determine the volume of THC contained in any sample of medible or concentrate, only that there is THC there.
Way to ask for a standard that you freely admit you cannot attain.
11. The MSP wants to dictate your business model
Controlling the nature of marijuana distribution is essential to the happiness of the MSP. Their first order of business: NO DELIVERY SERVICES.
“This is Non-Negotiable,” Denner said. “Transportation should only be allowed between licensed facilities.” She later added, “There is no delivery from a dispensary to a patient’s home… this is where the caregivers would come in.”
Denner said the MSP wants to prohibit Internet sales, ramp up penalties for violators of HB 4209’s new laws, cap the number of licenses available across the state and use the tobacco tax as a model for dispensary law.