Republican State Representative Mike Callton (87th District, Barry County) was originally opposed to Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act. His district is part of Michigan’s “conservative corridor” and having a medical background (he is a chiropractor and has a private practice in Nashville, Mich.) he wasn’t so sure that legalizing marijuana for medical purposes was a good thing.
He has since changed his mind and now is championing legislation to improve the Medical Marijuana Act that Michigan voters approved in November 2008.
“The changing point for me came when I saw how it transformed some patients, including one with terminal cancer,” said Callton. “I also saw how a 75-year-old woman with Parkinson’s and terrible tremors was able to get a good night’s sleep after this law went into place and her physician recommended medical marijuana.”
Callton has been touring the state in hopes of gaining support for legislation he is proposing that will eliminate some of the challenges for caregivers and patients. He will visit Traverse City on Thursday, Aug. 23 for the grand opening reception of 223 State St. Boutique & Compassion Center from 5 to 8 pm. The reception will include appetizers and beverages and music from guitarist Steve Marchena (see article) and a Q&A session with Callton. The event is free and open to the public.
“There are several issues that make it challenging for patients and caregivers with the way the Act was written. One thing that is not challenging is the residents and voters of this state passed this and have spoken loudly that they want medical marijuana. In fact this passed by a majority in every county in Michigan,” said Callton. “So as elected officials we should not be scared of this issue. For example, in Grand Traverse County the measure passed with 67 percent of voters in favor of it. So we should embrace it and fix the law so that access to this medicine is there for everyone who needs it.”
THE GRANDMA TEST
Callton’s legislation is House Bill 5580it would regulate how medical marijuana “dispensaries” -- or as Callton likes to refer to them, “provisioning centers” -- would operate in Michigan.
“We need to have these places pass the ‘grandma test’ as I like to call it,” said Callton. “Just as your grandmother feels safe going to a pharmacy, these places should have that same sort of feel.
“There is also confusion as to whether these places are legal; some communities are allowing them to operate and others are not. The bottom line - they need to be legal and allowed to operate so everyone has legal access to their medicine. You can’t expect a 75 or 90-year-old person who is given what is essentially a prescription for medical marijuana to know where the hell to get it. They need these provisioning centers.”
Callton has been traveling the state meeting “collective” owners, caregivers, patients and others to learn more about how to best establish legislation in everyone’s best interests.
NEW COMPASSION CENTER
One of those visits has included the new 223 State St. Boutique & Compassion Center. Mike Hedden owns the facility and believes he is operating legally in downtown TC.
“After the attorney general of Michigan ruling, there was a lot of confusion and some places were raided by law enforcement and closed down and others were able to remain open,” said Hedden. “I went to law enforcement locally and the governmental officials in Traverse City to find out what was acceptable, and after an extensive background check, I was given permission to open.”
Hedden is supporting the legislation Callton is proposing.
“This will make it black and white for all of us,” said Hedden. “Right now it is legal in 17 states and Washington D.C. and more states are looking to pass it this November. When you look at Northern Michigan with over 60 percent in the region voting for this, we need to move in a direction to make medical marijuana accessible in a legal way for all patients. The voters have spoken: we want marijuana for medical purposes. Now we have to eliminate the road blocks.”
Hedden wants his center to be more than just a place for people to pick up their medicine, so he also opened an art gallery.
“I have a dozen or so local artists right now and we are looking for more. We are also looking for some local jewelry makers. I thought, why have a big space for people to come in just to pick up their medicine? So the gallery concept is great because it is in a separate area and allows people who are not medical marijuana patients an opportunity to check out local art.”
Rep. Callton has visited Hedden and his staff a few times and looks at their operation as model for the rest of the state. He feels it passes the grandma test.
Callton also wants to address the doctorpatient relationship, as some legislators and law enforcement agencies in the state say it doesn’t really exist. Since the law passed, almost 250,000 people have received a doctor’s referral for medical marijuana.
At first, Callton agreed that the doctorpatient relationship seemed dubious. “Then I thought, what sort of patient-doctor relationship exists when someone goes into an emergency room and a doctor who has never seen them before operates or treats them?
“What about all these walk-in clinics where a person sees the doctor on duty who writes a prescription to treat their first time patient?” he adds. “We are not calling into question this sort of relationship, so how in the hell do we call into question a patient who goes to a licensed doctor who ‘prescribes’ medical marijuana? I don’t think we can or should do that.”
FEAR OF THE LIST
There are other things Callton wants to address. Including eliminating the state registry for all medical marijuana patients. The registry has made some patients afraid to get their medicine because they will be on a list.
“By requiring people to ‘register’ with the State of Michigan for medicine that their doctor has prescribed is crazy. We don’t require you to register when you get OxyContin or other Schedule II drugs, so why are we requiring this for medical marijuana?” said Callton. “I know that marijuana is listed as a Schedule I but there is talk in Washington DC to move medical marijuana to a a Schedule II drug.”
Callton would also like to see benchmarks established for medical marijuana patients who drive. And he supports the legal sale of medical marijuana so the state can collect taxes (currently there is a donation system in place for transactions). Callton also would like to see hemp farming legal in Michigan.
Another concern is driving a vehicle for medical marijuana patients, since traces of the drug can stay in a person’s system, for up to 30 days.
“We need a benchmark like we have with drunk driving. I am not sure what that is yet, but we can’t throw someone in jail who hasn’t medicated in a week because they tested positive.
“We also need to look at the economics of all of this. I have spoken to some collective owners who want the state to tax them and make the cash transaction legal. Some have told me that this is a half billion dollar industry and they think that is a conservative figure.
“Then there is hemp farming. It is illegal here, but hemp products are legal to purchase, so we have Canada and other places importing hemp products. Our farmers could be reaping the financial benefits of that as well.”
As for the overall legalization of marijuana, Callton is not quite sold on that.
“I am not of the belief that we should just legalize it completely. It would take a lot to convince me of that.”
But then again, four years ago when he went to the polls, he voted against medical marijuana.
State Rep. Mike Callton will visit Traverse City on Thursday Aug. 23 for the grand opening reception of 223 State St. Boutique & Compassion Center from 5 to 8 pm. The reception will include appetizers and beverages and music from guitarist Steve Marchena, along with local artists exhibiting their work. Callton will host a special Q&A session at 5:30 pm and will detail his proposed legislation. The event is free and open to the public. For details, contact Mike Hedden at 231-421-9505.