Four months after a protest in Lansing and a heated hearing in the state legislature, efforts to change Michigan’s caregiver laws have just moved from the state house to municipalities across the state.
“They’re not only coming at us through Lansing, but also through townships,” said Amie Carter, a caregiver and advocate, referring to alleged efforts by the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA). “They are trying to get townships to put in restrictions, like you have to have five acres of land to grow in a township.”
Michigan had 28,275 registered caregivers, as of last month. Each of those caregivers are allowed to grow up to twelve plants at a time for up to five patients, plus themselves, if the caregiver is also a registered patient.
Reeling off a list of townships and municipalities across Michigan, Carter charges that MCMA has been providing pre-written ordinances to local officials in an attempt to strangulate caregiver operations through zoning restrictions and requirements for home grow operations to be available for unannounced inspections by local police and fire departments.
Asked for comment on his organization’s legislative efforts, MCMA executive director Steve Linder, reached on Friday, refused to comment. “We’re not going to talk about legislation,” he told Grown In.
Last fall a set of proposed caregiver laws supported by MCMA were proposed in the Michigan House. Those laws would have sharply curtailed the number of patients caregivers could serve while also requiring caregivers to adopt seed-to-sale tracking and testing requirements commercial growers must follow. Caregivers, who usually grow from home with amateur setups, charge the proposed changes would effectively eliminate the state’s caregiver system.
However, since last October’s heated committee hearing and passage from committee, the proposed legislation seems to have stalled on the House floor.
“We did win, but they’re slowly trying to chip it away from us,” said George Birkho, leader of the Michigan Caregivers Association. “They were hanging their hat on safety. The stuff caregivers grow is a danger when there’s no record of people dying or getting hurt from caregiver medicine.”
Birkho and other caregivers point to the massive $200 million recall of products tested by Viridis Labs, as proof that the testing system isn’t actually making commercially-produced cannabis any better than caregiver product.
“That excuse kinda blew up in their face. Which we all knew was deception and bullshit. By the grace of God we had this transpire when the MRA recalled these products,” said Birkho.
The fact that Viridis was founded by a group of former Michigan State Police lab operators makes caregiver’s dissent from testing even stronger, says Birkho.
“This just shows the testing is to put financial strain on the small operator trying to get in the regulated space. I have no faith in it. I think the best testing method is the consumer.”
MCMA’s Linder says caregivers are justifiably afraid of the testing system, because they have a poor track record themselves.
“When caregiver product was in the system for a while, of the failures during that time, 97% of the time was caregiver product,” charged Linder. “People who don’t test their product at all, and when they did, it failed miserably, for them to talk about the efficacy of testing regimens. It’s a joke.”
“We believe in a regulated system that has safe and tested product. Every cannabis product that is available to the public needs to be tested,” said Linder.