In the changing tides of marijuana laws, one of the biggest issues is the federal government’s reluctance to change the “drug’s” classification under the Controlled Substances Act. Michigan lawmakers have taken a step towards reclassifying it themselves and the move has critics on all sides of the issue.
As reported by the Daily Chronic, Senate Bill 660 was recently signed by Governor Rick Snyder. It creates a “pharmaceutical grade” marijuana program to run alongside the current medical marijuana program. But, the law will only take effect if and when the federal government reclassifies pot.
Classified as a Schedule I substance, the federal government has essentially said marijuana has no legitimate medical applications despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. If it were reclassified to even the next level, a Schedule II substance, state medical marijuana patients and suppliers would not face federal criminal charges.
SB 660 tentatively reclassifies marijuana as a Schedule II substance at the state level if and only if the federal government follows suit. If and when this is achieved, the law would make marijuana available through pharmacies and thereby make it fair game for large pharmaceutical companies.
While at first blush it seems a positive move to see medical marijuana sold in pharmacies, lending it a legitimacy it doesn’t yet have, there are problems with it.
Pharmaceutical companies are all about turning a profit. Because they already have billions of dollars, there’s a good chance they would seek to smash their competition (the now-medical marijuana industry of Michigan). In offering medicine at cheaper prices, they could ultimately lure patients from the small dispensary owners and growers, entrepreneurs who have a positive impact on the state economy.
“Why are we spending taxpayer time and resources for an out-of-state corporate constituent who may or may not come to the state,” said Senate Minority Leader Gretchen Whitmer (D-East Lansing) at a hearing on the bill last year. She, and others, would rather see the current system perfected and fixed. “And we’re not doing squat for anything to help current constituents who cannot access medical marijuana.”
Some lawmakers support the pharmaceutical-grade proposition, as is evident from its passage. But they seem to be corporate interests above the interests of the people. Evidence of that is found in the law itself which says patients who opt for the pharmaceutical-grade cannabis would be opting-out of the current medical marijuana system—they would no longer be able to grow their own medicine or use dispensaries at all. And we know failure to abide by the strict regulations of the medical pot system puts patients at jeopardy of facing marijuana charges.
Currently, this is all a big “what if”. But if marijuana laws continue to change as they have been, we can expect this issue will not go away anytime soon.