Two ballot initiatives are now underway for the 2018 election, but it appears that Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than being passed by voters. Medicine Man Technologies has seen it firsthand, the often cavernous gap between legalization and full implementation of both medical and adult-use recreational marijuana. In Michigan, it’s no different – in fact, it might be more complex.
Medical Marijuana’s Rocky Road Since 2008
In November of 2008, Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved the compassionate use of medical marijuana by a vote of 63%. Known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMMP), it allowed qualified and registered patients to cultivate up to 12 plants in an enclosed and locked area at their home, as well as possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana. It also allowed caregivers to grow 12 plants per patient, up to 5 patients.
While the initial passing of the law was a step in the right direction, MMMP was meant to be further expanded by lawmakers tasked with establishing industry regulations and framework for cultivation, dispensaries, production, transport and more. This infrastructure never materialized. Now, Michigan’s patient population has grown to over 200,000 and the medical marijuana industry has developed in a more organic and less regulated way, with caregivers creating co-ops and hundreds of dispensaries not licensed or protected by the state, but allowed by local governments.
Finally, in September of 2016, three bills were passed and signed by Governor Rick Snyder to regulate the program. Let’s take a quick look at some of the new rules that were passed:
- Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will continue to oversee the program, and a new Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will review and approve licenses.
- As of December 15, 2017 (tentatively), applications will be accepted to operate as a grower, processor, transporter, provisioning center (dispensary), or safety compliance facility (testing). There will be restrictions on overlapping interests.
- License applicants must not have been convicted of or released from incarceration for any felony, including drug-related convictions, in any state for the past 10 years.
- Along with the application fee, there will also be an annual fee of $5,000 assessed, deposited into the Marihuana Regulatory Fund and used by the state to operate the program.
- Licenses for growers include three cultivation limits: Class A – 500 plants, Class B – 1,000 plants and Class C – 1,500 plants.
- Transporters will not take ownership of any medical cannabis or arrange contracts among other businesses. Transport will require 2 people, one remaining with the vehicle at all times.
- At dispensaries, patients will pay the state’s sales tax as well as an added 3% tax at the register. They will also be able to purchase marihuana infused products such as topicals and edibles.
While these regulations were welcomed by some, it remains to be seen whether existing dispensaries will be shut down and their operators forced to start over from scratch. This could leave thousands of patients without access to medication. Here at Medicine Man Technologies, we truly hope that the state will find a way to make the transition as seamless as possible for patients.
What Does This All Mean for Recreational?
With so much turmoil and an unstable medical marijuana program, it looks like Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than similar programs in other states. Will the new medical regulations be applied to the adult use recreational market, or will it be another 8 years before lawmakers fully implement a program? For now, proponents of two potential ballot measures are focused on 2018.
Currently, the most viable campaign for recreational marijuana is the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act which is spearheaded by the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. On August 15th, the group stated that they are close to securing 200,000 signatures and on track to achieve their goal of 366,000 signatures. At that point, 252,523 will need to be validated to get on the ballot in 2018.
This ballot measure would allow adults who are 21 years of age or older to possess up to 2.5 ounces on their person outside of their home, 10 ounces inside, plus whatever they have growing legally from up to 12 total marijuana plants in a single residence (locked and out of sight). All use in public and driving under the influence will remain illegal.
It will also require the formation of a state-regulated system to license, manage and tax the cultivation, testing, processing, transport and retail sales of marijuana and marijuana-infused products for adult use. While the proposal does outline certain regulations, such as additional taxes, more work will be needed for the program to launch – and as we’ve seen, it could take time.
Another initiative, Abrogate Prohibition Michigan, seeks to amend Michigan’s constitution to end “all prohibitions on the use of cannabis in any form by any person” as well as abolish regulations, including the imposition of taxes, fines and penalties for marijuana use. Because its sponsor, Timothy Locke, seeks to amend the state’s constitution, a total of 315,654 validated signatures will need to be collected. At this time, the initiative appears to lack the support needed, financial and logistical, to make the ballot.
There’s no doubt that Michigan will experience numerous changes through the end of this year and the coming election year. With the state’s new medical marijuana laws going into effect, it will likely indicate whether or not Michigan recreational marijuana may face bigger hurdles than winning over voters.
To assist with the complexities and changes, Medicine Man Technologies is available to all enterprises and individuals that want to enter the Michigan marketplace, either medical or adult-use recreational. We offer a variety of options, from seminars to private consulting and much more. We’ve assisted legal cannabis operations from coast to coast, and we’re here to support you, too.