LANSING- On Tuesday afternoon, before a standing-room only crowd of nearly 150 citizens, the Michigan Senate Government Operations Committee took testimony on the need for non-smoked forms of medical marijuana and localized distribution centers to service certified and registered patients.
Two bills that would enact new medical marijuana laws are under consideration in the Senate: HB 4271, The Provisioning Centers Act, and HB 5104, The Concentrates Bill. The hour-and-a-half Committee meeting featured an incoming and outgoing cast of Senators, a surprise announcement by the Michigan State Police, and moving testimony from some of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients and caregivers.
Rep. Callton: “Provisioning Centers are a solution for the here and now.”
At the outset Committee Chairman Richardville told the audience that some Senators had schedule requirements which limited the amount of time available for the day’s meeting. The Committee is composed of five Senators. Only three, the minimum needed to hold a committee meeting, were seated at the start of the session: Sens. Richardville, Whitmer and Meekhof. During the testimony Senator Hildenbrand arrived, and Senator Whitmer left for a short time before returning for the remainder of the testimony.
Parents and patients gave testimony on their actual experiences with medical marijuana, including several that chose to use CBD-based products to avoid any intoxicating effects. The need for non-smoked forms of cannabis by Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) participants was driven home to the legislators in several presentations.
Several pieces of testimony were remarkable and noteworthy.
Sen. Richardville, on the subject of the next round of debates: “Hopefully we will see them in the relative future.”
The Michigan State Police representative brought a gasp to the lips of many observers when she announced that her organization was now opposed to the two bills, and claimed that they had been in opposition when the bills were heard in the House just a few months ago. Those words rang hollow in the minds of many observers who heard that very representative give testimony on these bills in the House Judiciary Committee just a few months earlier.
During her testimony, the Sergeant named a long list of items that they wished to have amended in the bills before they could give their approval. Similarly, testimony from the man representing 45 local health departments brought up food safety issues regarding the production of certain items described in HB 5104.
Attorney John Targowski: “This is really about dignity.”
Support for the Provisioning centers Act came from an unexpected source: the Mayor of Montrose, Michigan. The Genesee County community is north of Flint, the city with the second largest number of medical marijuana distribution centers in the state. After sharing his personal story of a family member whose quality of life was dramatically improved in her final days through the use of medical marijuana, he told the story of his town and their experience with their dispensary, or Provisioning Center.
Mayor Ray Foust described how their Center operated without issues in his small town. “The people need this,” he told the Senators. His testimony supported HB 5104 as well; Foust told of marijuana capsules taken to alleviate pain by that family member.
Two of those called to testify came from great distance to address the Senate: John Targowski, former Michigan legal guru who now resides in California, and Anthony ‘Tony’ Ryan, a speaker from Arizona who represents Law Enforcement Against Prohibition. Both men were eloquent in their support of both bills as written.
Sally Haines Lawler: I have an improved “range of motion and energy” from cannabis
Time limits forced the session to end before all that wished to speak were able to, but Richardville addressed the issue by ensuring that those who were not able to testify would be given priority during the next hearing. The session was conducted in a professional and respectful manner by the Chairman and the attendees, which included many ill children and those in wheelchairs.
A vote on the two bills was not taken on Tuesday, as the meeting was designated as ‘Testimony Only.’ At the conclusion of the session Richardville mentioned that there would need to be a workgroup established to work out the issues raised during testimony. When pressed by Senator Whitmer, Richardville opined that he hoped the work could be concluded by the end of April, which drew groans from the crowd. Whitmer suggested a timetable that would end the debates before the Senate’s scheduled summer break.