Regulation is Not a Four Letter Word

Of course, that depends upon who is doing the regulating. The failures of HB-4271 and HB-5104 have prolonged Michigan’s agonizing vacuum of state guidance on the matter of getting safe medicinal cannabis to patients in a harmless manner. It has also left Michigan weak and vulnerable to powerful out-of-state lobbying groups who have no interest in our state, our economy or the health of our citizens.

Unfortunately, the dysfunctional and long-divided Michigan cannabis community has never managed to coalesce around a framework that would survive the state’s ultra-conservative legislature. Cannabis’ long exile to the shadows of American subculture has led to a sort of criminal complacency, where there is so much anecdotal evidence of its medical efficacy and relative safety compared to other recreational drugs, that the idea of having to follow rules and pay taxes in order to grow it and sell it is reprehensible.

Well, the herb will never be free, and the sooner we stop cursing that dark fact and engaging in the rule-making process, the better for our state and its communities. Not sure if you’ve noticed, but cannabis is the new capital investment. Like Silicon Valley and cell phones, cannabis is becoming the next big thing. And nowhere does the golden rule apply more than in the legislative process. Two minutes into the brand new term, politicians are already throwing dozens of fundraisers, and no fewer than nine big, rich companies are in Lansing trying to convince lawmakers that they have the solution. Most want to undo Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Act  and carve the state up into a few cultivation zones, controlled by their owners, of course. They call it legalization, but it sounds like Wall Street.

There are several Michigan-based groups trying to do the right thing, but there will be regulation. There will be rules for safety and testing, so that if you want to grow cannabis and sell it to somebody else, that somebody else knows that what they are getting is safe and that if it’s not safe, there are penalties. There will be licensing, permitting and inspection fees, because law enforcement and community leaders need to be able to tell the good guys from the criminals. There will be rules for dosing and labeling, because Senator Jones said so. There will be rules for manufacturing extracts, because clearly not everyone should be doing that. There will be taxation, because we have a budget hole to fill, along with a bunch of pot holes.

Regulation is not a bad thing. It’s the set of rules that keeps us all drinking safe water and eating safe food and breathing clean air. The question is, will Michigan’s established but fractured cannabis community even get a say in the matter? It may already be too late.

I know of a much worse four letter word: “Monopoly.”

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