As a small number of states are making the decision to legalize and/or decriminalize marijuana, it may lead Michigan residents to wonder where their state stands.
There are four bills related to the use of medical marijuana that are either on the table or pending review through the Michigan House of Representatives and the Michigan Senate.
Only one out of four proposed bills have become law, but it still requires the federal government to change the classification of marijuana in order to go into effect.
Here’s how it works:
Senate Bill 660 allows pharmacies to sell pharmaceutical-grade cannabis to patients with debilitating medical conditions. However, this law only goes into effect if the federal government reclassifies marijuana from an illegal drug to a prescription drug.
“Because the federal government has yet to reclassify marijuana, we will not see an impact anytime soon,” said state representative Jeff Irwin, who seems to have high hopes about marijuana’s future.
Irwin is a state representative of District 53, which includes Ann Arbor. He is responsible for introducing House Bill 4623, a legislation that would reduce minor marijuana possession to a civil infraction in the state of Michigan.
Under this proposed bill, a person caught with an ounce or less of marijuana which they illegally obtained will no longer be immediately subject to jail time, substantial fines, or probation.
Instead, on a person’s first offense, the punishment is a $25 fine, on the second offense, the fine is no more than $50, and on the third offense, it is no more than $100.
Why this matters:
According to the FBI/ Uniform Crime Reporting Program Data report, Michigan spent $94,838,792 enforcing marijuana possession laws in 2010.
The amount has only grown in recent years. The almost $95 million expense includes court costs, and probation costs; which, if House Bill 4623 is adopted, would nearly disappear. “(If passed,) the state would immediately save millions of dollars each year,” Irwin said.
According to Irwin’s proposal, decriminalization is not a new concept. Seventeen states have already decriminalized possession of marijuana, and eight others are considering legislation to do the same.
Since House Bill 4623 has only been proposed and not yet voted on, it’s unclear whether or not Michigan will join the 17 states.
St. Clair and Sanilac counties representative, Paul Muxlow, is unsure whether House Bill 4623 will lead to decriminalization: “I cannot say for certain if Michigan will decriminalize marijuana in the near future, however, I do not think the votes are currently in the legislature for such an action to occur.”
Despite the decriminalization bill standing at the gate of proposal, the House has just passed two other bills related to marijuana. One of those bills, 4271, allows provisioning centers (dispensaries) to operate under the Medical Marihuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act.
How this changes things:
According to the current Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, a person holding their medical marijuana card has to go through their own registered caregiver in order to get their medicine.
To be a caregiver, a person must be over 21 years of age and hold a valid registration card allowing them to grow marijuana for registered patients. With provisioning centers back in operation, a person can obtain their medicine by going into any dispensary and purchasing it.
The bill also states that the existence of a provisioning center is controlled by the local communities that they are in and cannot be within a thousand foot radius of a school or church.
The Michigan House of Representatives passed House Bill 4271 in mid-December. It now joins another bill that is also waiting to be reviewed by the Senate.
House Bill 5104 restores the rights of patients to use other products such as topical ointments and edibles. If this bill passes through the Senate, medical marijuana patients will be able to consume the substance in other forms as long as they are pertinent to the patient’s condition.
These marijuana infused products can be obtained through a person’s primary caregiver or through the provisioning centers, if 4271 passes through the Senate.
What all of this means for marijuana legalization:
Although there is no specific law or bill indicating that marijuana will be sold recreationally in Michigan, Rep. Irwin believes that it should be legal and regulated like alcohol.
According to Rep. Irwin, he isn’t the only one with that belief.
“The idea is gathering a lot of momentum, and we are starting to see opinions coming together from both sides of the political spectrum.”
Whether or not the current bills making their way through the process of approval or disapproval will pass remains to be seen, but if they do pass, their success may determine whether or not a bill approving marijuana for recreational use is on the horizon.
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