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Changes to Michigan's medical marijuana law kick in Monday

Marijuana plants
Flickr user A7nubis
Marijuana plants.

The changes affect doctors, 131,000 medical marijuana patients and 27,000 caregivers, who grow the drug for patients.

These new changes were passed during the state legislature's lame-duck session last year. A super majority in the legislature approved the changes that affect the Medical Marijuana Act voters approved in 2008.

Changes for patients

Patients will have to prove they live in Michigan. They can do that through state ID, driver’s license, or voter’s registration card. Their medical marijuana cards will be good for two years instead of one.

Changes for doctors

Doctors must complete an evaluation in person with a potential medical marijuana patient. They’ll also have to follow up with patients to see if the medical marijuana is helping whatever ailments it was recommended to help.

Changes for caregivers

Those who grow medical marijuana for patients, known as caregivers, will not be allowed to grow if they’ve been ever been convicted of assault, or if they’ve had a felony conviction within the past decade. Before, only drug-related felonies disqualified caregivers from growing.

The Associated Press spoke with one of the bill’s sponsors, State Representative Phil Cavanagh (D-Redford Township), who said lawmakers were worried certificates were given out over the phone or Internet.

Cavanagh said this prevents "some out-of-state doctor from coming in, renting a hotel room, writing these things and then leaving town." "Now we are saying: 'What's behind that card? Where did you get certified? Who was your doctor?'" said Michael Komorn, a Michigan attorney who specializes in medical-marijuana law. He said the new standards will benefit patients and doctors by outlining what is expected throughout the certification process. Komorn said some patients will lose their caregiver and be forced to find a new one. "Many patients who have developed relationships over the last four years with caregivers are going to lose their safe access to cannabis," he said. For example, a husband who is a caregiver for his wife — but also has a felony charge — will no longer be able to grow medical marijuana for her, he said. One of the amendments approved by lawmakers has already gone into effect. Medical-marijuana users must now store their pot in a case in the trunk while riding in a motor vehicle. Marijuana must be in a case that's not easily accessible if the vehicle doesn't have a trunk.

Confused about Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act? Find complete, amended legal language here. Or, check out Michigan Radio’stimeline that covers the history of the act here.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
The Associated Press is an independent global news organization dedicated to factual reporting.
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