Pharmaceutical-grade medical marijuana bill advances despite pleas from activists

maijuana plantsMedical marijuana activists are blasting legislation that could clear the way for pharmaceutical companies to grow and distribute cannabis in Michigan. A state Senate panel approved the bill today.

Imagine this. You’re at CVS or Walgreens picking up some milk, a loaf of bread – and some marijuana.

Pharmaceutical companies would be one step closer to producing and distributing medical cannabis in Michigan under legislation in Lansing. A state Senate panel approved Senate Bill 660 Tuesday, after hearing overwhelming testimony against it from medical marijuana activists.

“Small businesses will lose their jobs,” said Rick Thompson, an advocate with the Michigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access.

“Caregivers will lose out of the system. There will be a lot less people available to help the sick.”

Thompson says the current system is safe, and the bill could threaten the voter-approved law that created it. He says that’s because the plan would not allow people to obtain marijuana from both pharmacies and caregivers.

“Either you are a medical marijuana patient or you are a pharmaceutical-grade patient,” he said Tuesday after the hearing. “Since we start with 180,000 patients and they start with zero, in order for them to succeed, the Medical Marijuana Act has to be shrunk. And that’s the concern everyone has.”

But state Senate Majority Leader Randy Richardville (R-Monroe), who chairs the Senate Government Operations Committee, says the proposed new system would be a better option for most patients.

“I don’t call the other one a system. I call it a mistake,” he told reporters Tuesday morning before the hearing. “There are people out there growing things irresponsibly and people getting sick because of it. And it’s getting into schoolyards and school kids’ hands. I wouldn’t call that a system. I would call that a problem.”

Richardville says the new model would ensure all products are tested for things like mold and pesticides.

The legislation would only take effect if the federal government approves regulating marijuana as a prescription drug in the future. Although, it’s not clear whether that would require Washington to reclassify cannabis as a Schedule II drug, or if a federal agency could simply approve Michigan’s plan.