Michigan Bill Advances To Distribute Pot Through Pharmacies

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"Michigan Bill Advances To Distribute Pot Through Pharmacies"

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A bill advancing in the Michigan Senate would make marijuana available in pharmacies, but there’s one catch: It is contingent upon a change in federal law.

Michigan already has a medical marijuana law, and four more Michigan localities passed ballot initiatives last month to remove penalties for marijuana possession. But Michigan’s medical marijuana law authorizes home-grown marijuana and dispensation via “caregivers.” A February court decision found that the state’s law does not authorize even small-scale sale or distribution of marijuana.

The bill that passed the Senate Government Operations Committee 3-0 aims to subject medical marijuana to the same safety and quality standards as other medicines by dispensing it through pharmacies. Because marijuana remains a Schedule I substance under federal law, however, and deemed to have no currently available medical use, pharmacies are not permitted to dispense marijuana. The bill, therefore, would be explicitly contingent on a change of marijuana’s classification from Schedule I to Schedule II. Other drugs that are Schedule II include cocaine, opium poppy, morphine, and codeine.

Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee cited marijuana’s Schedule I designation as the reason why she refused to enforce a state medical marijuana law. Former Washington Governor Christine Gregoire also called for the drug to be rescheduled so her state could dispense it via pharmacies.

Changing marijuana’s classification would not require an act of Congress. The Drug Enforcement Administration has the authority to reschedule drugs. But it has rejected several requests to change marijuana’s designation, finding there is insufficient research of its medical benefits. In January, a federal appeals court declined to force the Drug Enforcement Administration to change marijuana’s Schedule I designation. Plaintiffs in the case cited more than 200 peer-reviewed studies and argued that it is precisely marijuana’s Schedule I designation that makes the legal access and funding necessary for large-scale studies so difficult to come by.

The bill also includes measures to regulate the growth and dispensation of marijuana now absent from the state’s legal regime. But some in the medical marijuana movement oppose the bill, saying it is a move to “corporatize” marijuana backed by moneyed interests. Another bill pending would explicitly authorize dispensaries, without the incorporation of pharmacies.

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