Nov. 4 2010 12:00 AM

Medical marijuana activists unhappy with proposed new regulations

Local medical marijuana activists are expressing displeasure with proposed new legislation that would change the state’s medical marijuana law.

“I think it’s an insult and an affront to the voters,” Michigan NORML member Richard Clement said. The sponsors “are a bunch of prohibitionists in sheep’s clothing.”

The activists gathered Tuesday at Gone Wired Caf on Michigan Avenue in Lansing after the proposed legislation was discussed in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

State Sens. Richard Kahn, R-Saginaw, Wayne Kuipers, R-Holland, and Gerald Van Woerkom, R-Muskegon, have each introduced a bill to alter the medical marijuana law. One bill would change medical marijuana to a schedule 2 controlled substance under the public health code, and another proposed law would spell out sentencing guidelines for violating the medical marijuana law.

A more alarming change to the activists is the proposal to disallow medical mari juana patients and caregivers from growing their own marijuana, as the law provides. The legislation would allow the state to license a maximum of 10 growing sites per year. The Associated Press reported that pharmacies would dispense marijuana to licensed recipients.

Bob Heflan, who oversees a medical marijuana compassion club in Traverse City, said that having 10 growers would eliminate patients’ right to choose from a variety of strains of medical marijuana.

“Is it better to have 10 farms in the state, or to have three strains being grown in one county?” Heflan said. “Having 10 large commercial farms would replace the thousands of patients and caregivers that gain a stream of income from growing their own medicine.”

According to the Associated Press, 7,000 patients and 3,000 caregivers are registered under the law.

In a press release on the Senate Republicans Caucus Web site, Van Woerkom said that the legislation introduced by him and his colleagues seeks to “complement” the law passed by voters in 2008 and that went into effect in April, and to subject medical marijuana “to the same policies and regulations as other medicines.”