HB 5014 was unveiled today by its sponsors during a press conference in the state Capitol Building. As introduced, it carries 25 sponsors and co-sponsors in the Michigan House of Representatives.
The bill was hailed as a vehicle through which Michigan’s 262,000+ medical marijuana patients can count on a continuous and uninterrupted supply of cannabis during the coming transition period from an unregulated dispensary market to the new, regulated provisioning centers.
The bill is a response to a newly-stated policy and oft-suggested discrimination from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs in the creation of rules for the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). LARA has imposed a penalty in licensing against any distribution center which elects to continue to serve medical marijuana patients after December 15th, and a rogue member of the Licensing Board has threatened refusal to approve any business which remained open after September 15th.
The bill’s sponsor, Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), described this policy as “regulatory overreach.”
Michigan already has hundreds of medical marijuana distribution centers in operation in an unregulated manner, some of which opened in 2009. Most of those entities want to transition into the new regulated market; if a majority of current dispensaries shut down due to LARA’s frightening threat, patient access to specialty medicines and unique strains of cannabis would be crippled. Many will suffer if that happens, the press conference speakers assured the cameras and audience.
“We have a choice to make,” Rep. Rabhi stated flatly, describing the choices as one of compassion or one of concession. His bill would extend a type of temporary or provisional privilege to existing centers, which would be revoked if they failed to apply to the new system by February 15, 2018 or if the Licensing Board rejected their application. The Board would be required to determine their approval before August 15, 2018.
Existing dispensaries and other businesses are still subject to shut down during this period by local officials or law enforcement, the bill advocates reminded media and the larger audience watching.
Key language of HB 5014 includes these passages:
AN APPLICANT WHO, ON OR BEFORE AUGUST 15, 2017, ENGAGED IN AN ACTIVITY THAT IS LICENSABLE UNDER THIS ACT AND WHO, ON OR BEFORE FEBRUARY 15, 2018, SUBMITS A COMPLETE APPLICATION AND PAYS BOTH THE NONREFUNDABLE APPLICATION FEE REQUIRED UNDER SECTION 401(5) AND THE REGULATORY ASSESSMENT ESTABLISHED BY THE BOARD FOR THE FIRST YEAR OF OPERATION IS, FOR THE PURPOSES OF THIS SECTION, UNTIL THE BOARD DETERMINES WHETHER THE APPLICANT IS QUALIFIED TO RECEIVE A LICENSE UNDER THIS ACT, A LICENSEE….
FOR AN APPLICANT WHO, ON OR BEFORE FEBRUARY 15, 2018, SUBMITS A COMPLETE APPLICATION AND PAYS BOTH THE NONREFUNDABLE APPLICATION FEE REQUIRED UNDER SECTION 401(5) AND THE REGULATORY ASSESSMENT ESTABLISHED BY THE BOARD FOR THE FIRST YEAR OF OPERATION, THE BOARD SHALL DETERMINE WHETHER THE APPLICANT IS QUALIFIED TO RECEIVE A LICENSE UNDER THIS ACT ON OR BEFORE AUGUST 15, 2018.
Rep. Rabhi was joined at the press conference by three mothers who have epileptic children and an Army vet, all of whom depend on the existing distribution network to obtain specialty medicines necessary to control their various ailments.
Those mothers included Ida Chinonis, who has bravely described in detail her struggles with her epileptic child to the Michigan legislature for several years; Emily, the mother of an epileptic child; and Carla Boyd, who brought her 15-year old daughter with her.
Boyd is on the Board of the Michigan Epilepsy Foundation; her daughter uses CBD medicines to control seizures. She described a “seamless transition” from the current market to the new regulated supply chain and urged lawmakers and LARA officials alike to “proceed with extreme caution” when crafting rules which regulate the health of sick children and ill adults.
Also speaking was Justin Nichols, an Army veteran who uses specialty medicines and assured the media that many other vets do, too. His speech was filled with emotion and sincerity.
The second legislative figure to address the press conference was Sen. David Knezek, who will introduce a Senate version of the same legislation shortly. He spoke eloquently about the need to protect the injured and the need for supply to remain available during the transition period.
The House bill was introduced to the legislature on September 27 and was assigned to the Committee on Law and Justice. That Committee is chaired by Rep. Klint Kesto and features Rep. Peter Lucido as Majority Vice Chair.
Read the bill HERE.