THE MEDICAL CANNABIS ARGUMENT Planning out the future of cannabis in Michigan

 

mi-legalcornerAlthough it will be December 15, 2017 before a person can apply to the state for a medical cannabis facility license, Michigan’s municipalities have the opportunity to indicate their intent to “opt in” to this state-regulated commercial program immediately—or not.

The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA), PA 281 of 2016, provides that if and only if a municipality adopts an ordinance authorizing state-licensed facilities within its borders can a person open and operate a facility there. There is no deadline or time table, and a municipality that decides it does not want commercial cannabis facilities in its community need only sit on its hands. And no, the previously passed ordinances purporting to zone and regulate protected patient and caregiver conduct under the MMMA do not count.

This “opt-in” requirement was an unusual methodology to be sure, but a necessary evil to get the law passed. In one of the most socially conservative legislatures in our state’s modern history, many elected representatives wanted the ability to return to their districts saying that while they did not stand in the way of those cities that wished to embrace the commercial medical cannabis industry, neither would their less cannabis-friendly home districts be required to accept it.

“Those hoping to lobby their communities to allow the commercial medical cannabis industry to plant flags in their backyards will be faced with the potential uphill battle of trying to convince a largely still willfully-ignorant populace to believe science, medicine and fact over the stigma of the word “marihuana” that still hangs in the air.”

This puts Michigan’s citizens, and particularly its nascent medical cannabis industry, in the difficult and frustrating position of having to relitigate medical cannabis all over again. In a state in which every one of its 83 counties voted in favor of cannabis for medical use in 2008, the intervening unstable, unregulated and decidedly unfriendly eight years has provided ample negative press to support any anti-cannabis narrative a local official may push. Those hoping to lobby their communities to allow the commercial medical cannabis industry to plant flags in their backyards will be faced with the potential uphill battle of trying to convince a largely still willfully-ignorant populace to believe science, medicine and fact over the stigma of the word “marihuana” that still hangs in the air.

While the future path of some cities, like Ann Arbor, Detroit and Lansing are easy to predict, many are likely to hang back a few months to see what their neighbors do. Add to that the potential for Chris Christie as U.S. Attorney General, and the national landscape becomes even more volatile, adding more potential hesitancy to act.

The MMFLA does give license hopefuls some tools with which to lobby local governments, including share of a three-percent excise tax on the industry paid only to municipalities who do opt in, in amounts proportionate to the number of licensed facilities they permit. While perhaps not as much of an inducement to larger population centers, a small, more rural community still reeling from the 2008 housing crisis that allows two, three or even five facilities would benefit disproportionately more from the tax revenue. That, the promise of local jobs that cannot be outsourced, and an increased commercial tax base can and should be used to support the primary argument that all local elected officials should remember—that providing a safe, licensed commercial facility for the patients in their communities to access this medicine is simply the right thing to do.

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