Medical marijuana patients in Michigan can’t buy their pot from a dispensary, thanks to the state Supreme Court. But they could eventually buy it from the same place they get their deodorant and Benadryl: the pharmacy.
Michigan lawmakers are considering a new MMJ-delivery system that would offer “pharmaceutical grade” cannabis at drug stores. Though backers say this wouldn’t replace the current system, in which patients can grow their own weed or buy it from caregivers, opponents fear that’s exactly what will happen.
“If you’re able to grow in your basement, there’s no reason to go to Walmart,” said Rick Thompson, spokesman for Americans for Safe Access-Michigan, an advocacy group for patients that worries court rulings will ultimately force everyone into the pharmacy system. “You have to eliminate home-based competition in order to get a large gross to be financially solvent. . . That’s not what we voted for in 2008.”
Part of the legislation would reclassify marijuana as a dangerous drug, moving it from schedule 1 to schedule 2. The first schedule includes drugs like heroin and LSD, the most dangerous and addictive substances with no acknowledged medical benefits. The second includes drugs like cocaine and methamphetamine that are dangerous and highly addictive but have limited medical uses.
Marijuana is listed on schedule 1 in all but a handful of states (including Colorado and Washington, where pot is now legal). It’s also listed on that schedule under federal law.
Weed proponents have long argued, with increasing evidence, that cannabis is not only substantially less dangerous than other schedule 1 drugs but is much less addictive and does have proven medical benefits.
But despite growing public support for legalization, it remains unlikely in most parts of the country – and at the federal level – that drug schedules will change anytime soon.
In Michigan, the proposal will face opposition not only from foes of liberalization but from medical marijuana supporters as well, especially those who fear the homogenization of cannabis.
The bill, authored by state Sen. Roger Kahn, a Republican, would let doctors recommend their patients be issued “enhanced” MMJ cards. This would allow patients to buy from licensed and inspected pharmacies.
“Marijuana, if it’s to be medical marijuana, should be held to the standard of medical safety, dosage predictability,” Kahn said. “Our medical marijuana (law) does neither of those. Yet it uses the word ‘medical’ predominantly or prominently in its claims.”
There are already signs of potential trouble. One of the lobbying forces behind the bill, Prairie Plant Systems Inc., has a presence in Michigan and wants to play a role in the industry if it can get approval.
Prairie Plant is the company behind Canada’s notorious CanniMed, a noxious, weak, metal-contaminated product that Canadian patients are forced to use by monopoly. When Canada changed its system earlier this year, patients rejoiced they would get a competitive market – until the country awarded the first (and so far only) licenses to Prairie Plant and its subsidiary, CanniMed.