Public questions proposed rules on medical marijuana
|By Neal McNamara|
A set of draft rules for Michigan’s medical marijuana law presented at a state Department of Community Health public hearing this morning was met with intense criticism from the public, with some saying that the proposals contradict the law passed in November by voters.
For nearly three hours, members of the public — including medical marijuana users, activists and advocates — expressed concern about some draft rules, including requiring useable marijuana to be kept in a locked cabinet and requiring patients and caregivers to keep an inventory of their marijuana.
“The draft rules have gone much further, and they instead seek to add onerous and unreasonable restrictions on patients,” Karen O’Keefe, the author of the Michigan medical marijuana law and an attorney with the Washington-based medical marijuana advocacy group, the Marijuana Policy Project, said. “In several cases (the draft rules) contradict the language of the voter-enacted law.”
O’Keefe said that the law passed by voters does not allow much interference from the Department of Community Health — except to establish a system to issue identification cards to medical marijuana patients and control the list of diseases that would make one eligible to use the substance.
Greg Zorotney, a state police representative, took issue with a department rule that would require leftover medical marijuana plants — such as when a patient dies — to be taken control of by law enforcement agencies.
“Our department doesn’t want to accept medical marijuana from anybody,” Zorotney said. “There should be a mandate that it be destroyed or transferred to another patient.”
Desmond Mitchell, a department policy analyst, and Amy Shell, a policy manager, mediated the meeting. Mitchell said that the purpose of the public hearing was just that — to gain input on what rules might and might not work.
“We’re a regulatory agency, and we look at things different than you a lot of the time,” Mitchell said at the end of the meeting. “I just want to assure you that no one is pulling a fast one — your comments will help us to make the rules better.”
James McCurtis, a department spokesman, said that the rules might go through “infinite” iterations before being solidified. The department has until April 4 to establish a registry and guidelines for medical marijuana use.
Michigan’s medical marijuana law passed in November by a margin of 63 percent and would allow patients with diseases such as HIV/AIDS and cancer to ingest the plant.