Dec. 10 2015 10:16 AM

Medical marijuana bills on hold for this year

THURSDAY, Dec. 10 — Citing other legislative priorities and “infighting” among medical marijuana advocates, the Senate sponsor of dispensary legislation said the bills are dead for this year.

State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, the bills' sponsors and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told City Pulse today that a bill to legalize the commercial growing, distribution and selling of medical
marijuana will not move forward this month as he originally wanted.

Jones cited a lack of interest by Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive, to move the bill to the full Senate before session ends next week. Not having the votes in committee to move the bill on Tuesday (due to two members' absence) meant Meekhof could have discharged it to the full Senate if he chose.
Jones told City Pulse that Meekhof “had other priorities right now, like Detroit Public Schools.”Meekhof's press secretary, Amber McCann, could not immediately be reached for comment.

But other factors were playing against Jones' plan to move the legislation before the end of the month.

Major last-minute changes introduced this week would have regulated medical marijuana the same way alcohol is through a three-tiered program separating suppliers, distributors and retailers. That caused a leading patient-advocacy group to withdraw its support for the bill.

For state Sen. Steve Bieda, the only Democrat serving on the Judiciary Committee, there was much uncertainty around the latest changes to the bill.

“I'm looking to have more testimony before I make up my mind,” Bieda said today. “I'm hopefully optimistic.”
Jones, a former Eaton County sheriff, also cited “infighting” among medical marijuana supporters as a reason the bill has an uncertain fate.

While he contends the legislation would bring criminal activity - medical marijuana caregivers selling their “overages” to dispensaries - into the legal realm, several pro-pot speakers at a Judiciary Committee hearing this week testified against the bills out of fear the system would drive up the cost of products.

“Because of infighting from various marijuana groups - including those who want nothing done so they can continue criminal activity - it's hard to get the support for this,” Jones said.