LANSING, MI — Starting Monday, significant changes to Michigan’s medical marijuana program will take effect, including extending medical marijuana registration card expiration to two years, setting rules defining a doctor-patient relationship, and requiring medical marijuana to be transported in the trunk of a car.
Monday’s changes to the medical marijuana law reflect the first significant changes to 2008’s voter-approved law allowing medical marijuana to patients suffering certain debilitating illness, including cancer and chronic pain.
But lawmakers said the 2008 law left too much open to interpretation, and pushed through several separate measures at the end of last session designed to clarify the act.
House Bill 4834 extended medical marijuana program registration card expiration from one to two years, House Bill 4856 requires medical marijuana to be transported in the trunk of a car, and House Bill 4851 clarified the doctor-patient relationship needed before medical marijuana use can be certified, one of the most significant changes to the law.
Democratic Rep. Phil Cavanagh of Redford Township in Wayne County, primary sponsor of HB 4851, said lawmakers had concerns that the certificates were given out too liberally, like over the phone or Internet.
But starting Monday, doctors must complete face-to-face medical evaluations of patients, review their relevant medical records, and assess their medical condition and history. The amendments also require follow-up with patients after providing the certification to see whether the use of medical marijuana to treat the illness is working.
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.
Among other changes that begin Monday is that state-issued cards given to people who have a doctor’s endorsement will be good for two years instead of one. Applicants also must show proof of residence, like a driver’s license or state ID, to get the $100 cards.
Also effective Monday is a new rule that medical marijuana must be transported in the trunk of a car.
These changes, while the most recent, are not the only changes on the horizon for Michigan’s evolving medical marijuana program. A Michigan lawmaker has introduced a bill that would authorize medical marijuana dispensaries following a state Supreme Court ruling that they’re not allowed under the current law.
The bill would allow local communities to license and regulate “provisioning centers,” allowing medical marijuana patients to have access to their medicine.
Rep. Callton says that not allowing dispensaries is a hole in the law that needs to be fixed, as it is causing an unfair hardship on terminally ill people.
Last year, the same court ruled that collective medical marijuana growing is also not permitted under state law.