Moving Forward Addressing concerns about Michigan’s recreational cannabis bill

By now, most people have heard that there is a new cannabis law in Michigan, officially the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA). The law just took effect on Dec. 6, 2018, so there is definitely a need for more information. This breakdown is dedicated to serve as a source for basic information, and to address a few popular questions regarding Michigan’s newfound cannabis legalization.

The basics are simple enough: Any adult 21 and over is allowed to possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis anywhere in Michigan except federal property, property of pre-schools through grade 12, school buses and property of correctional institutions. Adults are allowed to grow up to 12 plants, with a maximum of 12 plants per household. That seems clear enough, but consider a household where one or more persons are medical cannabis patients or caregivers. Consider MRTMA Section 4.2., which states, “This act does not limit any privileges, rights, immunities, or defenses of a person as provided in the Michigan medical marihuana act . . . ”

If a medical patient or caregiver is growing at least 12 plants, are they or another adult allowed to grow additional plants on the premises? Possibly not. If the patient or caregiver is growing at a location not on the premises, then another resident could grow there. However, it is not clear that any patient could possess 12 medical (off-site) and 12 adult-use plants. Presumably, a caregiver still has the right to grow, even if their patient begins growing at their own residence.

Medical plants come with the restrictions that the patient or caregiver only may possess two and one-half ounces per patient. The adult-use law allows an adult who is growing the right to possess and store for personal use any cannabis produced by plants cultivated on the premises. One possible solution is to grow six or so plants for medical use, and six or so for personal use. It is not clear that those plants would have to be identified when growing in a personal garden, and likely not. Presumably, the determination of use could be delayed until the product actually is available for use, after harvest. At that time, the decision may be made to keep the best buds for personal reserve, and divide the rest between various other uses, with some set aside, of course, for friends and family.

“The licenses will be issued by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, without any review by the board now handling the medical cannabis facilities licenses.”

 

Newly empowered adults may wish to exercise their newfound rights. The civilized way to do that would be to go to one of those new provisioning centers you can locate on several smartphone apps. The problem with that plan is that the provisioning centers only are allowed to sell to people with medical cannabis cards. It is okay to ask your friend with such a card to make that visit for you? Possibly not, but the industry hopes that police won’t spend their time worrying about that small detail.

Michigan’s new Attorney General Dana Nessel, if asked by a member of the House or Senate, could issue an opinion interpreting any gray areas. Those opinions have the force and effect of law, unless and until overturned by a court ruling. Emergency rules could allow licensed provisioning centers to sell to any patient or adult, with only the difference that patients are relieved of paying the 10 percent excise tax. Those rules also could allow caregivers and patients to sell any overages to growers, processors or provisioning centers, provided that the product is tested. That will be necessary for the immediate future. It might be advisable to include in those rules a provision that the caregiver and patient right to sell to licensed facilities sunsets in a couple of years, unless the grower has transitioned to a 100 plant or larger grow license. The 100, 500 and 2,000-plant count adult-use growing licenses need to be issued immediately, not over a year from now, which is what will happen if the state takes all allowable time in making applications available.

The licenses will be issued by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), without any review by the board now handling the medical cannabis facilities licenses. The Bureau within LARA has been renamed, from Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation to the Bureau of Marihuana Regulation. If the retail stores are not open, or have no supply, or lack quality and variety, the illegal market will thrive. The state has a perfect opportunity now to move forward and incorporate those who otherwise might be inclined to operate outside the normal stream of commerce, into the regulated market.

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