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dmr Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Tue Jan-26-10 01:44 AM
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Lawmakers fiddle with stem cell, marijuana laws
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The Republicans, champions of deregulation, are busy regulating ....
Published: January 24, 2010 07:40 am
Voter-approved laws get tweaked

Lawmakers fiddle with stem cell, marijuana laws

LANSING (AP) -- Just over a year ago, Michigan voters put their stamp of approval on measures loosening restrictions on embryonic stem cell research and letting some sick people use marijuana for medical reasons.

Now state lawmakers -- mostly conservative Republicans -- are trying to change both measures, saying they need clarification to ensure there's enough oversight of the research and marijuana use the ballot measures allowed.

- snip -

The constitution was changed to allow embryos left over from fertility treatments that otherwise would have been thrown out to be donated for research.

The Senate committee has approved bills that would add reporting requirements for researchers, set up penalties for violations and define terms contained in the constitutional amendment. One measure defines which embryos would be unsuitable for implantation and eligible for donation.

Stem cell researchers say the bill's definition contradicts the intention of Proposal 2 and would prevent the donation of embryos with known genetic defects that scientists most want to study.

Embryonic stem cell supporters note the legislation is supported by Republican Sen. Tom George of Kalamazoo County, Right to Life of Michigan and the Michigan Catholic Conference -- all vocal opponents of the 2008 ballot proposal.

"I don't see anything in these bills that meaningfully adds to the regulations that we already abide by," says Sean Morrison, a University of Michigan researcher. "These bills repeat a lot of things that are already out there and they introduce some new things that would damage our ability to do the science."

George, one of several Republicans running for governor in 2010, says stem cell supporters are exaggerating the scope of the legislation and may want to avoid having reporting requirements or penalties for violations spelled out in state statute. He says donation of embryos the researchers want would still be allowed under terms of his legislation.

Stem cell research supporters could go to court if the Legislature passes a measure that might contradict Proposal 2.

The measure says no laws can be passed that would restrict or discourage the research.

- snip -

Bills are pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee that would change Michigan's medical marijuana law approved in November 2008 by 63 percent of voters.

Bill sponsors are worried that the program, which allows thousands of patients to grow their own otherwise-illegal marijuana, doesn't have proper oversight.

- snip -

But lawmakers sponsoring the new bills are worried because there's no process in place to inspect marijuana growers and verify they're staying within their 12-plant limit, an issue that could grow as thousands more people seek to join the program.

Medical marijuana supporters say the lawmakers' proposed fix would undermine the voter-approved goal of getting the drug to patients who need it to relieve pain and other symptoms.

Under the bills, patients authorized to use marijuana would no longer be allowed to grow their own supply.

The state would license up to 10 facilities to grow marijuana and the drug would be distributed through pharmacists and doctors, much like a prescription medicine.

Critics say that federal law doesn't authorize the use of marijuana for medical purposes, so doctors wouldn't write the prescriptions and pharmacies wouldn't fill them, essentially cutting off all legal access to the drug.

- more at link -
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