LANSING (AP) — Five years after Michigan voters legalized marijuana use for medical purposes, lawmakers say it’s time the drug is brought into the fold of the health care industry so patients can buy it at their corner pharmacy.
A bill approved last week by a Senate committee would pave the way for the production and sale of “pharmaceutical-grade” cannabis. The measure essentially would create a second medical pot system in the state, one that proponents say would not interfere with the existing law under which patients can grow their own pot or obtain it from caregivers.
“Marijuana, if it’s to be medical marijuana, should be held to the standard of medical safety, dosage predictability,” said Sen. Roger Kahn, a Saginaw Township Republican and cardiologist. “Our medical marijuana (law) does neither of those. Yet it uses the word ‘medical’ predominantly or prominently in its claims.”
Kahn is sponsoring legislation, now pending on the Senate floor, to move marijuana from a Schedule 1 drug in the same category as heroin and other drugs with no accepted medical use to a Schedule 2 drug like cocaine and morphine that are addictive but also used for medicinal purposes. The reclassification could not occur without federal approval.
Such a reclassification would lay the groundwork for pharmacies to dispense marijuana. The legislation would allow doctors to recommend that patients be issued “enhanced” cannabis cards differing from those now carried by 129,000 residents.
To get a card, the patient could not have been convicted of a drug offense, would have to surrender his or her ID card issued under the existing law and be at least 18 years old. Suppliers and participating pharmacies would undergo annual inspections.
Critics of the bill include backers of the current system who are suspicious of efforts to “corporatize” marijuana growing. Prairie Plant Systems Inc., which has been the Canadian government’s sole supplier of medical marijuana for 13 years, is lobbying for the legislation with help from former House Speaker Chuck Perricone. Its Michigan subsidiary, SubTerra, does plant research and manufacturing in a former Upper Peninsula copper mine and wants to grow marijuana there if it can secure various approvals.