Aug. 22 2012 12:00 AM

A House Republican introduces medical marijuana legislation that seeks to survive the "Grandma Test" and allow for locally controlled dispensaries, er, provisioning centers


Although it probably won’t make it into the final language of the bill, state Rep. Mike Callton said any proposed medical marijuana “provisioning center” should pass the all-important “Grandma Test.”

“If your provisioning center isn’t safe enough for your grandma, you need to work on it. Every place should put it to the Grandma Test,” he said.

Callton, a Republican from Nashville, introduced legislation that would put medical marijuana dispensaries into law. But they’d go by a different name: “provisioning centers.” 

During the height of the medical marijuana dispensary boom, Callton said he toured quite a few of the shops. He said he got to “understand what they were trying to do” — put accessible medicine in the hands of those who truly need it. 

Callton is not only a state legislator, he’s also a chiropractor. Because of this, he said, he views medical marijuana dispensaries as a “patient care issue.” 

Under his bill, HB 5580, provisioning centers would have safety standards, cannabis testing standards and would operate under the good graces of local jurisdictions. Local governments could determine where the centers would be and how many could operate — or if they want them at all. 

Under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, he said there was no concept for dispensaries where someone with a doctor’s recommendation could purchase cannabis. This bill would do that. He said he saw several “professional, doctor office-like” dispensary owners go to jail because of lack of clarification in the law, which showed him there was a problem to be addressed when it came to medical marijuana distribution. 

“You had all those dispensaries along Michigan Avenue. Many of those are gone. There used to be over 400 in the state. Now there is less than 100,” he said. “If you are still open, it’s because you have a sympathetic sheriff and prosecutor or you’re doing such a good job you’ve avoided being closed down.”

The state statute created patient/caregiver relationships between those who needed cannabis and those who were willing and able to grow it. Each caregiver can have up to five patients and can grow 12 plants for each patient. Patients can also grow up to 12 plants for themselves if they do not have a caregiver. Callton said this could create an “overage” problem where the patient or caregiver has too much cannabis. 

“If you’re growing 72 plants (the maximum allowed if someone is a patient and a caregiver for five other patients), it’s not always in synch and you’re only allowed to keep so much,” he said. “The bill makes a place for overage to go in a legal way.”

Provisioning centers would be allowed under the law to buy up a caregiver’s excess marijuana and sell it to patients who may not have a caregiver. 

Callton said he worked extensively with the medical marijuana community to change and improve the bill. It’s up for a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee this fall. 

“What is my constituency going to think? I’m from a conservative area, but nearly two-thirds of voters in the state supported the MMMA,” he said. “I don’t think there’s a constituency issue, I think it’s a political winner. We’re seeing a real paradigm shift in thoughts about medical marijuana.