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Vote on medical marijuana reforms expected this week

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LANSING, Mich. — A long-awaited vote on reforms to Michigan's vaguely written medical marijuana laws could happen as soon as this week in the state Senate.

The reforms—seeking to add regulations to dispensaries, create a tracking system for plants and further clarify usable forms of medical marijuana—overwhelming passed in the House last October.

But in the seven months since, the reforms stalled in the Senate following continued disagreements on a proposed tiered licensing system that was later added. The changes prompted many medical marijuana patient advocates who'd previously been on board, including Robin Schneider with the National Patients Rights Association, to withdraw support of the bills.

“It was a matter of making regulations crystal clear for law enforcement purposes," Schneider said . "But it turned into a situation with a lot of diverse business interests, trying to implement their preferred business model. Our only goal was to protect the patients."

The tiered system proposed regulating growers, distributors and retailers in a way that's similar to how the state regulates alcohol. Schneider contends the tiered system didn't make sense in a situation more aptly comparable to a pharmacy than a liquor store, where doses vary by case and patient.

Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, once a strong advocate of the tiered licensing system, this week signaled a compromise had been reached in order to move forward on a vote.

"We’ve worked very hard to make sure every Senator understands cities, townships and places are all saying we need this very badly," he said. “Because they want to specifically tailor a pharmaceutical product for patients and children, it was felt the grower and distributor could work together. But there still has to be a break, police want to be sure we can track from seed to sale.”

Ida Chinonis sits on the Capitol steps with her daughter Bella, 7.

Ida Chinonis sits on the Capitol steps with her daughter Bella, 7.

It's welcome news for Ida Chinonis of Grand Blanc, whose 7-year-old daughter Bella suffers from a genetic disorder, causing epilepsy and potentially life-threatening seizures. It wasn't until Bella began using cannabis oil a year and a half ago that she was able to do things she never could before.

Not only are Bella's seizures under control when using cannabis oil, she can stand on her own for the first time in her life, can form sounds and tones with her mouth, reach for objects and respond to her name, her mother said.

"It’s helping her be the little girl she was meant to be," Chinonis said. “We are just flabbergasted by the results we’ve seen."

Chinonis said she's hopeful lawmakers will act quickly, and is pleased the focus of the reforms is placed back on protecting patients.

"[Bella's] life is in the hands of these Senators right now," she said. “The state needs to pass these laws, they need to protect us and I need to know I am safe giving [cannabis oil] to her and that she is safe and protected.”

Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons, R-Alto, who sponsored the bill to legalize alternative forms of medical marijuana, said the reforms are a long time coming for patients.

“This isn’t a bill about whether you support medicinal marijuana, the voters already spoke, what we have to do is set up a regulatory framework and provide alternatives to smoke for medicinal marijuana patients," she said.

"There's all this talk of decriminalizing recreational marijuana, but my message has been that we've got to get medical marijuana right first."

In February, an economic impact analysis by Hillsdale College suggested the proposed regulatory reforms for medical marijuana would generate between $44 million and $63 million a year in new revenue for the state. The report was commissioned by the Michigan Cannabis Development Association.

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  • Brian Kelly

    “Low-THC strain only” seems to be a new trend in prohibitionist propaganda rhetoric.

    Read carefully:

    “Charlotte’s story and the concern for other young patients have led some lawmakers to consider passing legislation that only allows patients to access marijuana oils that are high in CBD and that have little or no THC (tetrahydrocannabinol). While it is heartening to see lawmakers’ concern for the plight of patients with catastrophic seizure disorders, these proposals unfortunately exclude the vast majority of those who can benefit from medical marijuana, some of whom also face life-threatening ailments.

    Relative Rarity

    While CBD appears to be particularly effective at treating seizures, the number of individuals treating seizure disorders through medical marijuana programs is relatively low. For example, only 2% of the registered patients in both Rhode Island and Colorado report seizures as their qualifying conditions. While it is imperative that these individuals be allowed to legally access medical marijuana – and the strain they need – it is just as important to remember that there are tens of thousands of other men and women and a small number of children who suffer from a variety of debilitating conditions whose symptoms are alleviated by medical marijuana. The vast majority of those patients have symptoms that benefit from strains of marijuana that include more than trace amounts of THC.

    THC: Why It Matters

    Tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, is just one of the roughly 85 cannabinoids found naturally in marijuana. Clinical trials and the experiences of hundreds of thousands of patients have shown that THC, and strains of marijuana that include THC, provide important medical benefits for individuals suffering from pain, multiple sclerosis, nausea, and wasting disease. THC is also the cannabinoid most responsible for marijuana’s psychoactive effects. While THC does cause marijuana’s “high,” patients use marijuana for relief, not for euphoria. Patients who inhale marijuana can titrate their dosage precisely to use only as much as they need, reducing or eliminating the euphoria. Some use marijuana only before bed.

    The federal government has officially recognized THC’s medical properties since 1985, when the FDA approved a prescription drug that is made of synthetic THC — Marinol — for nausea. Yet, Marinol is not adequate for many patients who can benefit from marijuana. For nauseated patients, a pill can be impossible to keep down. Meanwhile, many patients benefit from the synergistic effect of THC and the other cannabinoids, such as CBD. Natural marijuana is less intoxicating than Marinol because patients can titrate their dosage and other cannabinoids moderate THC’s psychoactive properties.

    Studies have shown that marijuana that includes THC can alleviate a host of debilitating conditions, including:

    Nausea and appetite loss: Researchers have found THC and marijuana with THC are effective anti-emetics and appetite stimulants for individuals suffering from the side effects of cancer chemotherapy or AIDS treatments.
    Multiple sclerosis: Research has found that marijuana with THC can alleviate spasticity. In addition, Canada, the U.K., and several other countries approved an oral marijuana extract made of equal proportions of CBD and THC.
    Pain: Several studies have found that marijuana strains that include THC can alleviate neuropathic pain — a notoriously difficult-to-treat nerve pain commonly found in amputees, AIDS patients, and patients with multiple sclerosis.
    Since the 1970’s, the federal government has been providing a handful of individuals who suffer from various ailments with marijuana grown at the University of Mississippi as part of the Compassionate Investigational New Drug program. The four surviving patients still receiving federal marijuana receive a strain with almost no CBD that has been essential to managing their conditions — a rare bone spur disorder, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, and a painful condition called nail patella syndrome, respectively. The marijuana these individuals have benefitted from would not be allowed under CBD-only proposals.


    Medical marijuana legislation should not be so restrictive as to leave behind around 98% of the individuals who can benefit from it. THC has proven medical benefits and individuals who can benefit from strains that include it should not be forgotten when legislators debate medical marijuana bills.”


    • Brian Kelly

      Politicians who continue to demonize Medical Marijuana, Corrupt Law Enforcement Officials who prefer to ruin peoples lives over Marijuana possession rather than solve real crimes who fund their departments toys and salaries with monies acquired through Marijuana home raids, seizures and forfeitures, and so-called “Addiction Specialists” who make their income off of the judicial misfortunes of our citizens who choose marijuana, – Your actions go against The Will of The People and Your Days Are In Office Are Numbered! Find new careers before you don’t have one.

      The People have spoken! Get on-board with Medical Marijuana Legalization Nationwide, or be left behind and find new careers. Your choice.

      Legalize Medical Marijuana Nationwide!

    • Brian Kelly

      When a loved one is in pain, wasting away unable to eat, and needs this marvelous herb in order to increase their appetite, reduce the overwhelming pain, and live as as healthy and happily as they can with the time they have left, let’s have the compassion to allow them to have it.

      Stop treating Medical Marijuana Patients like second rate citizens and common criminals by forcing them to the dangerous black market for their medicine.

      Risking incarceration to obtain the medicine you need is no way to be forced to live.

      Support Medical Marijuana Now!

      “[A] federal policy that prohibits physicians from alleviating suffering by prescribing marijuana for seriously ill patients is misguided, heavy-handed, and inhumane.” — Dr. Jerome Kassirer, “Federal Foolishness and Marijuana,” editorial, New England Journal of Medicine, January 30, 1997

      “[The AAFP accepts the use of medical marijuana] under medical supervision and control for specific medical indications.” — American Academy of Family Physicians, 1989, reaffirmed in 2001

      “[We] recommend … allow[ing] [marijuana] prescription where medically appropriate.” — National Association for Public Health Policy, November 15, 1998

      “Therefore be it resolved that the American Nurses Association will: — Support the right of patients to have safe access to therapeutic marijuana/cannabis under appropriate prescriber supervision.” — American Nurses Association, resolution, 2003

      “The National Nurses Society on Addictions urges the federal government to remove marijuana from the Schedule I category immediately, and make it available for physicians to prescribe. NNSA urges the American Nurses’ Association and other health care professional organizations to support patient access to this medicine.” — National Nurses Society on Addictions, May 1, 1995

      “[M]arijuana has an extremely wide acute margin of safety for use under medical supervision and cannot cause lethal reactions … [G]reater harm is caused by the legal consequences of its prohibition than possible risks of medicinal use.” — American Public Health Association, Resolution #9513, “Access to Therapeutic Marijuana/Cannabis,” 1995

      “When appropriately prescribed and monitored, marijuana/cannabis can provide immeasurable benefits for the health and well-being of our patients … We support state and federal legislation not only to remove criminal penalties associated with medical marijuana, but further to exclude marijuana/cannabis from classification as a Schedule I drug.” — American Academy of HIV Medicine, letter to New York Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, November 11, 2003

      • Brian Kelly

        There is absolutely no denying that the vast majority of Americans support providing full, safe, legal access to Medical Marijauana Nationwide.

        Pennsylvania: Franklin & Marshall College
        A record number of Pennsylvania voters, 84 percent, favor legalizing medical marijuana for adults if a doctor recommends it.

        Harris Poll
        Eighty-one percent of respondents, including super-majorities ofDemocrats, Republicans, and Independents, expressed support forlegalizing marijuana for medical treatment.

        Virginia: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Fifty-four percent of voters support “allowing adults to legally
        possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.” Nearly nine out of ten Virginians support legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes.

        Florida, Ohio, Pennsylvania: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Voters in three critical swing states support legalization and
        super-majorities in all three states endorse allowing doctors to
        recommend cannabis therapy.

        Pennsylvania: Robert Morris University
        The survey showed 67.5 percent of Pennsylvanians are in favor of legalizing medical marijuana.

        Iowa: Des Moines Register Poll
        Seventy percent of Iowa adults say they favor legalizing marijuana for medical uses.

        North Carolina: Public Policy Polling
        Nearly seven out of ten North Carolinians support a doctor’s right to prescribe marijuana to patients in need.

        Third Way
        Fifty percent support legalizing recreational marijuana for use by adults; 78% are in favor of allowing individuals to use marijuana for medical purposes if a doctor recommends it.

        Florida: Gravis Marketing Poll
        More than 60 percent of Florida voters say that they support Amendment 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to permit cannabis therapy to qualified patients.

        Florida: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Fifty-five percent of voters support allowing adults in Florida to legally possess small amounts of marijuana for personal use.

        Connecticut: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Nine out of ten Connecticut voters support legalizing the use of cannabis for medicinal purposes, and a majority support allowing adults to possess the plant for any purpose.

        Minnesota: KSTP/SurveyUSA Poll
        Sixty-eight percent of Minnesotans believe marijuana should be legal for medical purposes.

        WebMD Survey of Doctors
        A majority of doctors say that medical marijuana should be legalized nationally and that it can deliver real benefits to patients.

        Virginia: Quinnipiac University
        Virginia Voters Back Medical Marijuana with 84% support.

        Iowa: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Iowans overwhelmingly support allowing doctors to prescribe marijuana for medical use.

        Maryland: Goucher Poll
        Ninety percent of Marylanders support the use of marijuana for medical purposes, if prescribed by a doctor.

        Pennsylvania: Mercyhurst Center for Applied Politics Poll
        A strong majority (85%) of Pennsylvania voters say that patients should be allowed to use marijuana when prescribed by a doctor.

        Ohio: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Eighty-seven percent of Ohio voters support the use of medical marijuana.

        New York: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Voters in New York support the legalization of marijuana for both medical (88%) and personal (57%) use.

        North Carolina: Public Policy Polling
        A recent Public Policy Polling survey found 63 percent of North Carolina voters believe doctors should have the right to prescribe marijuana for medical use.

        Florida: Quinnipiac University Poll
        Eighty-two percent of Florida voters support the medicinal use of marijuana.

        Oklahoma: SoonerPoll
        Seventy-one percent support allowing seriously ill patients to possess marijuana for medical purposes with a physician’s recommendation.

        Fox News Poll
        Eighty-five percent of voters favor medical marijuana.

        • Brian Kelly

          Nobody can deny the Medical effectiveness of Medical Marijuana.

          Below is a small sampling of the Professional Medical Organizations Worldwide that attest to Medical Marijuana’s effectiveness and Support Legal Access to and Use of Medical Marijuana.

          Along with over twenty U.S states that have already legalized medical marijuana.

          Are they ALL wrong?

          International and National Organizations

          AIDS Action Council
          AIDS Treatment News
          American Academy of Family Physicians
          American Medical Student Association
          American Nurses Association
          American Preventive Medical Association
          American Public Health Association
          American Society of Addiction Medicine
          Arthritis Research Campaign (United Kingdom)
          Australian Medical Association (New South Wales) Limited
          Australian National Task Force on Cannabis
          Belgian Ministry of Health
          British House of Lords Select Committee on Science and Technology
          British House of Lords Select Committee On Science and Technology (Second Report)
          British Medical Association
          Canadian AIDS Society
          Canadian Special Senate Committee on Illegal Drugs
          Dr. Dean Edell (surgeon and nationally syndicated radio host)
          French Ministry of Health
          Health Canada
          Kaiser Permanente
          Lymphoma Foundation of America
          The Montel Williams MS Foundation
          Multiple Sclerosis Society (Canada)
          The Multiple Sclerosis Society (United Kingdom)
          National Academy of Sciences Institute Of Medicine (IOM)
          National Association for Public Health Policy
          National Nurses Society on Addictions
          Netherlands Ministry of Health
          New England Journal of Medicine
          New South Wales (Australia) Parliamentary Working Party on the Use of Cannabis for Medical Purposes
          Dr. Andrew Weil (nationally recognized professor of internal medicine and founder of the National Integrative Medicine Council)

          State and Local Organizations

          Alaska Nurses Association
          Being Alive: People With HIV/AIDS Action Committee (San Diego, CA)
          California Academy of Family Physicians
          California Nurses Association
          California Pharmacists Association
          Colorado Nurses Association
          Connecticut Nurses Association
          Florida Governor’s Red Ribbon Panel on AIDS
          Florida Medical Association
          Hawaii Nurses Association
          Illinois Nurses Association
          Life Extension Foundation
          Medical Society of the State of New York
          Mississippi Nurses Association
          New Jersey State Nurses Association
          New Mexico Medical Society
          New Mexico Nurses Association
          New York County Medical Society
          New York State Nurses Association
          North Carolina Nurses Association
          Rhode Island Medical Society
          Rhode Island State Nurses Association
          San Francisco Mayor’s Summit on AIDS and HIV
          San Francisco Medical Society
          Vermont Medical Marijuana Study Committee
          Virginia Nurses Association
          Whitman-Walker Clinic (Washington, DC)
          Wisconsin Nurses Association

          Additional AIDS Organizations

          The following organizations are signatories to a February 17, 1999 letter to the US Department of Health petitioning the federal government to “make marijuana legally available … to people living with AIDS.”

          AIDS Action Council
          AIDS Foundation of Chicago
          AIDS National Interfaith Network (Washington, DC)
          AIDS Project Arizona
          AIDS Project Los Angeles
          Being Alive: People with HIV/AIDS Action Committee (San Diego, CA)
          Boulder County AIDS Project (Boulder, CO)
          Colorado AIDS Project
          Center for AIDS Services (Oakland, CA)
          Health Force: Women and Men Against AIDS (New York, NY)
          Latino Commission on AIDS
          Mobilization Against AIDS (San Francisco, CA)
          Mothers Voices to End AIDS (New York, NY)
          National Latina/o Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Association
          National Native American AIDS Prevention Center
          Northwest AIDS Foundation
          People of Color Against AIDS Network (Seattle, WA)
          San Francisco AIDS Foundation
          Whitman-Walker Clinic (Washington, DC)

          Other Health Organizations

          The following organizations are signatories to a June 2001 letter to the US Department of Health petitioning the federal government to “allow people suffering from serious illnesses … to apply to the federal government for special permission to use marijuana to treat their symptoms.”

          Addiction Treatment Alternatives
          AIDS Treatment Initiatives (Atlanta, GA)
          American Public Health Association
          American Preventive Medical Association
          Bay Area Physicians for Human Rights (San Francisco, CA)
          California Legislative Council for Older Americans
          California Nurses Association
          California Pharmacists Association
          Embrace Life (Santa Cruz, CA)
          Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
          Hawaii Nurses Association
          Hepatitis C Action and Advisory Coalition
          Life Extension Foundation
          Maine AIDS Alliance
          Minnesota Nurses Association
          Mississippi Nurses Association
          National Association of People with AIDS
          National Association for Public Health Policy
          National Women’s Health Network
          Nebraska AIDS Project
          New Mexico Nurses Association
          New York City AIDS Housing Network
          New York State Nurses Association Ohio Patient Network Okaloosa AIDS Support and Information Services (Fort Walton, FL)
          Physicians for Social Responsibility – Oregon
          San Francisco AIDS Foundation
          Virginia Nurses Association
          Wisconsin Nurses Association

          Health Organizations Supporting Medical Marijuana Research

          International and National Organizations

          American Cancer Society
          American Medical Association
          British Medical Journal
          California Medical Association
          California Society on Addiction Medicine
          Congress of Nursing Practice
          Gay and Lesbian Medical Association
          Jamaican National Commission on Ganja
          National Institutes of Health (NIH) Workshop on the Medical Utility of Marijuana
          Texas Medical Association
          Vermont Medical Society
          Wisconsin State Medical Society

          • MarkBO

            Thank You Brian K.,
            WTF else do “they” need”? MEDICAL Marijuana, ILLEGAL immigrants, RADICAL ISLAMIC Muslims, UNJUSTIFIED shootings, FUDGING ETC! It is a complex world; “a chicken in every pot (no pun intended)” just doesn’t cut it anymore!
            PLEASE don’t let yourself/ yourselves, the AMERICAN masses, allow the mainstream Press influence your VOTE with out of context sensationalism and/or alternative motivations.

            Thanks again for your supported, candid, sincere report Brian.

  • Jamie Lowell

    These “reforms” are not good.

    Please contact your state senator and representative and request a NO on HB 4209.

    Whether you support cannabis reform or not- this is bad policy.

    • Zigman Frued

      Guarantee my Tea Party republican Senator Mike Green and Rep Edward Canfield will answer the leadership’s call for support, who could have known Republican changes and amendments could be incorporated? Never occurred to me.

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