GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — Bills before the Michigan Legislature are looking to change regulations for medical marijuana caregivers, limiting how much marijuana they could grow.
Some customers are boycotting the major cannabis producers that back the legislation, which would lower the number of cannabis plants a caregiver may grow from 72 to 24.
Casey Kornoelje, the founder of Grand Rapids-based cannabis provisioner Pharmhouse Wellness, opposes the legislation.
“For me, it would potentially cut the amount of cannabis that I could provide to my wife,” who has Crohn’s disease and for whom Kornoelje serves as caregiver, he said.
While he now sells medical and recreational marijuana at his store, he started as a caregiver, growing plants at home and providing them directly to patients for medical use.
“You’re probably not harvesting 72 plants all in one shot. In order for these caregivers to provide a consistent flow of cannabis for their patients, most likely they’re breaking that down into different segments — some in the early seedling stage, some in the vegetive stage and then some in the flower stage. And so when you break that down, it’s really not that excessive of a plant count as people are thinking,” Kornoelje said.
State Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, a sponsor of the legislation, said his bill is about two things: patients and communities. He said that unlike stores, caregivers are not required to test their marijuana for quality.
“Two-thirds of the market right now of cannabis in Michigan is unregulated and so what that means is the majority of that product can be untested,” Lilly said. “So for cancer patients, those with immunocompromised situations, getting access to a safe product is really important. Some of this untested product has been found to contain mold, pesticides, E. coli, salmonella.”
He said the legislation would also reduce the number of plants grown in residential areas and lead to more growing in commercial or agricultural areas.
“New York just went through some of this work and they’ve done about 12 plants for six patients, compared to what I’ve proposed at 24, but our current law allows for 72, which for anyone who does any growing or cultivating cannabis knows is far more than six patients can possibly consume,” Lilly said.
Some see the bills as a way to transfer market share from smaller businesses to corporate operations. Kornoelje says the caregiver system is important to the economy.
“This is a cottage industry but it’s also an industry that generates jobs and it’s an industry that generates ancillary business, as well,” Kornoelje said.
He does not think the legislation is the best way to approach concerns about quality.
“I can’t speak for the 30-something thousand growers and what’s inside of their gardens across the state. However, with a good heart, I couldn’t imagine that you would be doing that. And if it is going on, OK, let’s address that head-on,” Kornoelje said.
The legislation, House Bills 5300, 5301 and 5302, has moved out of committee and is being considered by the whole House.
*Correction: A previous version of this article misspelled Pharmhouse Wellness. We regret the error, which has been fixed.