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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Up In Smoke! By JC Trout

Patients, caregivers, citizens, stand and unite! We are under attack! Senator Rick Jones aims to destroy our state’s Compassion Clubs (CC). Earlier this year, Jones wrote and presented Senate Bill 17 (SB17), which seeks to outlaw all compassion clubs that accept membership fees, from allowing their members to medicate on site. This bill was presented under the guise of public safety, suggesting that medicated individuals are leaving these clubs intoxicated and driving home. The MMMR has been following SB17, and Jones has already managed to get his bill passed by the Committee on Health Policy as of March 8th. It is now up for consideration by the Michigan Senate.

Alarmingly, there has been no statistical or factual information offered by Jones as proof that CCs are a safety hazard. It would also seem if Jones were truly considering the public’s safety, then his bill would also seek to keep people from drinking at “alcohol” bars. Heck, he didn’t even have evidence that proved marijuana negatively affects driving ability; and if he had, the data that is available would toss out his entire claim. Of course, when it comes to discrimination, fact and truth are not necessary.

Many bloggers claim Mr.Jones is playing a procedural game with Senate rules. In order to change an existing act requires a 75% majority. To avoid that super-majority requirement, Jones has focused on section 7 (Scope of Act, Limitations) under the claim that SB17 will only narrow the scope of acceptable medical use. Since the legislature can narrow any law with only a simple majority (51%), Jones hopes to pass SB17 under the Senate’s nose.

However, the MMMA provides protections outside section 7 that have the potential to quash SB17 as well. Section 4 (Protections…), for instance, protects patients and caregivers from “…arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege...;” which would include the constitutional right to assemble and the privileges provided by the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act of 2008.

From a bird’s eye view, conservative law makers have been attempting to destroy the only growth market in this economy – medical marijuana businesses. Earlier this year, a rash of busts were pasted all over the newspapers, claiming that dispensaries were illegal businesses because they did not follow the Caregiver Patient system set forth in the act. Now the tables are turning on the Compassion Clubs (CC), who under the guise of “compassion”, have thus far enjoyed a positive face with the public. With SB17 under consideration, it would seem that CC doors will be under threat to close much faster than their dispensary counter-parts. If CC’s do not address these issues more proactively, it is a safe bet that the word “audit” might be in their future as well.

Surely, most CC’s will simply prohibit patrons from smoking on the premises, but this legislative attack signals the multi-pronged strategy our law-makers will employ to keep our market from blossoming. More importantly, if this bill is going to be stopped, the movement is going to have to quit quibbling over this very debate and protect our interests. WE ARE the ones who are going to have to write the letters, make the phones calls, send the emails, and protest in Lansing. WE ARE under attack!

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