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Wednesday, January 26,2011

Jones on pot: Expect regulations in 2011

State Sen. Rick Jones and local attorney Matt Newburg discuss medical marijuana issues

by Andy Balaskovitz
Wed. Jan. 26 —State Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said today that legislation to tax medical marijuana businesses is coming in 2011. And a local medical marijuana attorney says it should.

Jones leads a medical marijuana “task force” that he says will create “a whole package of legislation” to clarify aspects of the state medical marijuana law.

“I could envision perhaps a dozen different bills,” Jones said today on “City Pulse on the Air.”

Jones said there will be at least another couple of months of meetings and then a couple of more months of writing legislation before anything concrete emerges.

“My hope for 2011 is to bring clarity to the current law that was put on the books by a ballot initiative,” he said.

Matt Newburg, who started Newburg Law to specialize in medical marijuana, agrees there should be some amendments to the state tax code to address marijuana.

“I think it will benefit everybody to have reasonable regulations on businesses, individual patients and caregivers as well,” Newburg said. “Reasonable regulations, including on the tax code, would be a good idea.”

Newburg said he has spoken with multiple business owners who also support taxing the product in some way.

“That (taxes) would alleviate a lot of trepidation and fear these places have,” Newburg said, because it legitimizes their business.

Secondly, Newburg said there should be separate legislation specifically regulating businesses by, for example, establishing a code of conduct for operating or requiring certain security measures, he said.

“If there’s a bill that specifically governs businesses, that will help,” he said.

Newburg said his only fear about possible legislation is that it ends up affecting people in their own home.

“If bills start to regulate activity in the home, that would be concerning,” he said.

Meanwhile, Jones has proposed legislation that seeks to ban medical marijuana “clubs” similar to the Green Leaf Smokers Club in Williamstown Township. The club was founded by Fredrick "Wayne" Dagit last winter as a site for medical marijuana patients to buy product and use it in a lounge-type setting. Dagit faces charges stemming from a May 26 arrest for allegedly possessing more than 200 pounds of marijuana.

Jones said his main goal is to keep people from smoking it in social situations only to turn around and drive home. “(These clubs) encourage illegal behavior,” Jones said. “Take it home and consume it there.”

However, Newburg and Jones acknowledged the difficulty of actually testing people for THC, the active ingredient in cannabis. Someone may test positive for THC while driving a car, but there is no way to tell if they had just smoked or ingested it or did so days, perhaps weeks, before.

Jones said he did not vote for the ballot initiative in 2008 to allow for medical marijuana. Had it not been written with “very gray” areas, he said he would have.

Jones, 58, the former sheriff of Eaton County, also said he has never used marijuana.

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