Hashing out pending medical marijuana legislation, potential policy change to avoid felonies

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LANSING, Mich. – Marijuana is becoming a stickier legal issue in Michigan, leaving many medical marijuana advocates to question the way law enforcement and prosecutors want to change pending legislation that would regulate dispensaries and legalize marijuana concentrates, like edibles.

A couple weeks ago, FOX 17 broke an accusation that Michigan State Police Forensic Science Division crime lab employees were being pressured to misreport marijuana test results deliberately, writing “origin unknown” on lab reports leading to felony charges that defendants claim are unfounded.

In the meantime, the Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan (PAAM) President Michael Wendling said they spearheaded an effort seeking to close the gap between charges of possessing synthetic THC, a two-year felony, and marijuana, a misdemeanor. Wendling told FOX 17 they are working to change policy to make both charges a one-year misdemeanor.

“There is some movement afoot, and it was afoot long before this issue came up, to bridge that gap between synthetic marijuana and plant based marijuana, because it is difficult to tell the difference,” said Wendling.

“And it was our position that we should make it all a misdemeanor, a one-year misdemeanor, because it makes it easier for prosecutors to go forward, and law enforcement agencies to go forward, with those substances.”

The medical marijuana discussion continued in Lansing Tuesday morning during the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing. Only law enforcement, including Michigan Chiefs of Police, Michigan Sheriffs Association, and Michigan State Police, along with PAAM testified regarding pending medical marijuana legislation.

However, the hearing agenda only listed Senate Bills 508 and 509 about cyber revenge, which took only a few minutes of the hour-long hearing. The medical marijuana bills on the other hand, were unlisted and lasted the majority of the hearing. Testimony of House Bills 4209, 4210, and 4827 were followed by no time for public comment.

“It’s a perversion of process and it’s inappropriate,” said Rick Thompson, board member of Michigan’s chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML).

“This is now the third or the fourth meeting of the Senate Judiciary where citizenry has not been allowed to speak, and yet industry or law enforcement representatives rule the day.”

Officials voiced concerns regarding pending legislation that would track and regulate dispensaries, and then legalize “marijuana-infused products,” like medibles and topicals: medicines card-carrying patients don’t have to smoke.

“I think we’ve reached the position of the wild, wild west out there right now: apparently caregivers are selling their overages to these dispensaries, there’s no licensing, people don’t know what they get,” said State Senator Rick Jones, (R) 24th District.

Jones and others gave uneasy testimonies touching on a list of worries, including the dangers of making hash oil, wanting the amount of THC in products labeled, and secure transport of products.

“What we want to avoid is the private delivery services, ‘Uber Weed,’ insert random name here, people that are delivering as dispensaries to patients or caregivers,” testified MSP Sgt. Amy Dehner.

Another major point of contention to medical marijuana advocates like Thompson is the majority of testimony was based on the idea of cutting out the caregiver altogether.

“We don’t have an answer for the overage, other than to either phase out or completely get rid of the caregiver model,” said Dehner.

“We’ve seen law enforcement use a lot of different scare tactics in order to intimidate legislators and citizens into participating or into banning distribution centers; this is just more of the same,” said Thompson.

“I’m very distressed to see that the bills are being warped into something that would potentially eliminate the caregiver system, which is a baseboard of our program since 2008.”

Wendling said it’s up to the county prosecutor to interpret state statute and case evidence. But as FOX 17 is reporting out of Ottawa County, the law’s grey area has caused some people using concentrates like hash oil, namely defendant Max Lorincz, to be charged with felonies they and attorneys argue are unfounded.

“It’s unethical for a prosecutor to charge a case that they don’t have the evidence or reasonable likelihood of prosecution,” said Wendling.

“I can’t tell you that the Ottawa County Prosecutor, or my county, or any county what their conclusion is on that ultimate issue. That’s why we have juries to make that decision, and there are cases that could go either way.”

Then, the potentially huge development for future marijuana cases: again Wendling told FOX 17 PAAM is working to charge synthetic THC cases as marijuana. Both possession charges would turn into a one-year misdemeanor, not a two-year felony.

“That is underway: to try and deal with that issue that “origin unknown” becomes a problem for prosecutors to apply the right statute,” said Wendling.

Wendling said he was unsure of how far along in this process they actually are in adjusting legislation, but that it’s “underway.”

Kent County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Chris Becker told FOX 17, “Kent County has decided to treat oil cases, where three is no plant material visible, as marijuana not synthetic. Counties that see it differently aren’t necessarily doing anything wrong. Different counties can interpret it differently.”

Becker also said, “The state lab is its own entity. There is no grand conspiracy.”

It’s clearly a very lengthy and involved process as Michigan legislature works to change medical marijuana laws. Meanwhile, many citizens want a chance for public comment.

Stay with FOX 17 for the latest on pending marijuana legislation as well as the investigation into court cases involving the issue of marijuana crime lab reporting.


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    Ah Bullshit. its all about money. how much money politicians can make for themselves.
    As in ohio, the lobbyists for marijuana just happen to own one of only five farms that would have been allowed to grow weed if the bill had passed.
    politicians don’t take a dump unless it puts money in the bank.

    There was a Michigan senator with a horticultural background involved with Michigan laws. dig around, you’ll find it. google is your friend

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  • William Clark

    ”Avoid the felonies’? What say we avoid the misdemeanors too?

    Me? I’ve read news stories of entrapment, coercion, and departmental greed, under color of antiquated, unconstitutional State forfeiture laws. Policing for profit, a pose of being ‘tough on crime’, instead of pursuing real crimes against real victims.

    I favor the MILegalize petition. Please visit its website and contribute to its campaign fund.

    Michigan is a Right to Farm State. If your land is suitable and you raise crops according to State standards, you may compete in the State’s open market. I’d say legalize marijuana but don’t corporatize it. Never interfere with patients’ rights to grow their own. And tell the police to take a hike. They are addicted to profiting from Michigan’s antiquated, unconstitutional forfeiture law. Their reps have repeatedly hijacked lawmakers’ votes to fine-tune the MMMA, by showing up ‘en masse’ and playing ‘tough cop’ in legislators’ offices just before a vote.

    “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the anti-war left and black people. We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting people to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, break up their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” –John Erlichman

    Prohibition of marijuana is a premise built on a tissue of lies: Concern For Public Safety. Our new laws save hundreds of lives every year, on our highways alone. In November of 2011 a study at the University of Colorado found that, in the thirteen states that decriminalized marijuana between 1990 and 2009, traffic fatalities have dropped by nearly nine percent—now nearly ten percent in Michigan—more than the national average, while sales of beer went flat by five percent. No wonder Big Alcohol opposes it. Ambitious, unprincipled, profit-driven undertakers might be tempted too.

    In 2012 a study released by 4AutoinsuranceQuote revealed that marijuana users are safer drivers than non-marijuana users, as “the only significant effect that marijuana has on operating a motor vehicle is slower driving”, which “is arguably a positive thing”. Despite occasional accidents, eagerly reported by police-blotter ‘journalists’ as ‘marijuana-related’, a mix of substances was often involved. Alcohol, most likely, and/or prescription drugs, nicotine, caffeine, meth, cocaine, heroin, and a trace of the marijuana passed at a party ten days ago. However, on the whole, as revealed in big-time, insurance-industry stats, within the broad swath of mature, experienced consumers, slower and more cautious driving shows up in significant numbers. Legalization should improve those numbers further.

    No one has ever died from an overdose of marijuana. It’s the most benign ‘substance’ in history. Most people—and particularly patients who medicate with marijuana–use it in place of prescription drugs or alcohol.

    Marijuana has many benefits, most of which are under-reported or never mentioned in American newspapers. Research at the University of Saskatchewan indicates that, unlike alcohol, cocaine, heroin, or Nancy (“Just say, ‘No!’”) Reagan’s beloved nicotine, marijuana is a neuro-protectant that actually encourages brain-cell growth. Research in Spain (the Guzman study) and other countries has discovered that it also has tumor-shrinking, anti-carcinogenic properties. These were confirmed by the 30-year Tashkin population study at UCLA.

    Drugs are man-made, cooked up in labs, for the sake of patents and the profits gained by them. Often useful, but typically burdened with cautionary notes and lists of side effects as long as one’s arm. ‘The works of Man are flawed.’

    Marijuana is a medicinal herb, the most benign and versatile in history. “Cannabis” in Latin, and “kanah bosm” in the old Hebrew scrolls, quite literally the Biblical Tree of Life, used by early Christians to treat everything from skin diseases to deep pain and despair. Why despair? Consider the current medical term for cannabis sativa: a “mood elevator”. . . as opposed to antidepressants, which ‘flatten out’ emotions, leaving patients numb to both depression and joy.

    The very name, “Christ” translates as “the anointed one”. Well then, anointed with what? It’s a fair question. And it wasn’t holy water, friends. Holy water came into wide use in the Middle Ages. In Biblical times it was used by a few tribes of Greek pagans. But Christ was neither Greek nor pagan.

    Medicinal oil, for the Prince of Peace. A formula from the Biblical era has been rediscovered. It specifies a strong dose of oil from kanah bosom, ‘the fragrant cane’ of a dozen uses: ink, paper, rope, nutrition. . . . It was clothing on their backs and incense in their temples. And a ‘skinful’ of medicinal oil could certainly calm one’s nerves, imparting a sense of benevolence and connection with all living things. No wonder that the ‘anointed one’ could gain a spark, an insight, a sense of the divine, and the confidence to convey those feelings to friends and neighbors.

    I am appalled at the number of ‘Christian’ politicians, prosecutors, and police who pose on church steps or kneeling in prayer on their campaign trails, but cannot or will not face the scientific or the historical truths about cannabis, Medicinal Herb Number One, safe and effective for thousands of years, and celebrated as sacraments by most of the world’s major religions.

  • Common Cents

    “Synthetic” laws exist for substances like JWH-018, not concentrates of cannabis oils.
    The words “synthetic” and “concentrate” are not synonyms.

  • Tommy Thumbs

    Rick Jones went on our dime to be wined and dined and his pockets lined to Prarie Plant Systems in Canada ( the sole supplier) who was dictated in SB 660.. Who does he think he is fooling, except the uninformed. This is the most corrupt group we have ever had in Lansing.

  • Rachelle Kirkwood

    I really hope the people of Michigan are not dumb enough to let the state take more medical marijuana in Michigan. The rich getting richer…like always… what a crock of crap. The state lab and the prosecutors were caught red-handed. They cannot be trusted, they’re ran by GREED.

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