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Drama at state Senate medical marijuana hearing; main proponents drop support

Dec 8, 2015

A state Senate sergeant asking Marine Corps veteran and medical marijuana patient Dakota Serna to leave a hearing after making disparaging remarks about law enforcement officials.

A hearing on bills to create legal protections for medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan sparked some drama on Tuesday.

Many patients now oppose the legislation, in part because it creates new taxes on medical marijuana sales.

Dakota Serna is a Marine Corps veteran who uses cannabis for post-traumatic stress disorder.

“This bill not only takes more money from them, it taxes their medicine – you’re going to give some of that medicine to the sheriff’s department, the jackboots, the thugs that comes into people’s homes and kick in the door,” said Serna.

An animated exchange with state Senate Judiciary Committee Chair Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, ensued after Jones gaveled Serna down following that comment. Jones then asked Serna to leave the hearing.

Meanwhile, the organization that has long led to fight to enact the legislation says it is withdrawing its support for the bill following changes in the Senate committee.

Under a new version of the bill, the state would treat medical cannabis much like it treats alcohol distribution, using a tiered model where companies cannot be licensed to operate more than one kind of medical marijuana business.

Critics of the bill say it’s designed to generate profits for middlemen and will drive up costs for patients.

“We support the idea of smaller, vertically-integrated business models because they’re able to keep the costs down. The end costs to the patients is very important to us,” said Robin Schneider with the National Patients Rights Association (NPRA), which until now has led efforts to pass the bill.

Schneider says the new system seems to be designed in anticipation of legal recreational marijuana in Michigan.

“Modeling it after alcohol – I think that we’re not in a situation where we should be looking to do that yet,” she said.

Supporters of the legislation say it will help the state make sure medical marijuana is safe and controlled.