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Long-stalled medical marijuana bills move forward despite activists’ objections

flickr user bobdoran

A state House panel has approved long-stalled bills to overhaul Michigan’s medical marijuana system.

House Bills 4209, 4210, and 4827would add protections for dispensaries and non-smokable forms of medical marijuana. But to get the necessary support from Republicans on the committee, the bills now include taxing and tracking cannabis sold through dispensaries.

The legislation also requires marijuana being transported to go through a licensed “secure transporter.”

Critics say those changes will drive up the cost of safe, legally-obtained medical marijuana.

“The illegal markets, the alternative markets, the black markets – whatever you want to call it – of course will be the more attractive market for consumers as a result,” said Jamie Lowell, a prominent marijuana activist who is also founder of  the Third Coast Compassion Center dispensary in Ypsilanti.

State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) was one of two Democrats who voted against the bills in committee due to the changes.

“What we’ve seen in other states is if you treat the medical marijuana like enriched uranium and you try to wrap it in red tape what ends up happening is that more and more people turn to the illegal market,” said Irwin.

But supporters of the legislation say it will ensure medical marijuana is safe and accessible to patients.

“What I think is going to happen, frankly, is that there’ll to be fewer black market… more people will have certainty and confidence in the system as a result,” said Paul Welday, chair of the Michigan Responsibility Coalition, which lobbied for some of the changes.

The legislation now goes to the full state House.