Senate panel votes to ban felons from dispensing medical marijuana

LANSING — Legislation designed to crack down on the lax regulation of medical marijuana was approved by a Senate panel Tuesday, said Sens. Rick Jones and Tonya Schuitmaker.

“Under federal law, schools are ‘Drug Free Zones’ and it’s only logical that we would clarify in state law that medical marijuana cannot be distributed close to where our children attend classes,” said Jones, R-Grand Ledge, chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee. “Similarly, it makes sense to extend the ban to churches, since many run drug rehab programs.”

Senate Bill 504 prohibits the selling of medical marijuana at facilities often known as “dispensaries” within 1,000 feet of a church/place of worship or school zone. SB 505 would prohibit convicted felons from registering to be caregivers and selling medical marijuana at dispensaries.

Under current law, individuals convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs are not allowed to become primary caregivers for medical marijuana patients.

“Marijuana was approved by voters strictly for medicinal use,” said Schuitmaker, R-Lawton. “Therefore we need to make sure real doctors are the ones prescribing it, that no convicted criminal is distributing it, and that pot shops aren’t set up near schools or places of worship.”

The Michigan State Police have reported the arrests of two convicted felons during a recent drug raid on a Lansing marijuana clinic. Both employees of the Evolve Medical Marijuana Services were jailed on charges.

After investigating the matter, Jones learned that one of the felons was convicted of homicide. Previously, Jones debated the owner of the Williamston medical marijuana club on public television. The owner stated he was convicted of distributing cocaine. He was later arrested and is currently facing charges.

Jones and Schuitmaker will continue to work with Attorney General Bill Schuette this summer to clarify the medical marijuana laws and protect Michigan residents.

SBs 504 and 505 will now go before the full Senate for further consideration. A three-fourths vote of the Legislature is required to amend a voter referendum.