ou probably do not realize this, but we writers at Culture, like many others, are required to meet deadlines that predate the publication of our articles by two weeks. For that reason, even as I write this, I am not sure whether HB-4271 and HB-5104, legislation protecting and recognizing dispensaries and medibles, have passed or signed into law.
As much fun as it will be to celebrate a much deserved victory, whatever happens will require significant amounts of work. There is no question that passage of this legislation will unleash tens of millions of dollars in capital by investors who have been quietly on the sidelines awaiting clarity and a sign that their risk will have at least some state legal cover. Small local dispensaries that have weathered a six year tempest of court rulings, and aggressive, inconsistent law enforcement will now have to fend off corporate competition while meeting a barrage of new regulations and licensing requirements. Very ill and disabled folks who rely on oils, tinctures and medibles for their serious conditions will likely have a much more difficult battle getting access to safe extracts while satisfying the state’s concerns over candy-like creations, potency and safe manufacturing techniques.
A flurry of regulation will be a welcome change compared to the uncertainty and anger that awaits if the bills did not pass. While I will continue to argue, rightly, that dispensaries are not illegal, I am unlikely to have great success with local government boards who are either not being properly counseled or who are just so anti-marihuana that they refuse to listen.
Indeed, as I waited, like the rest of you, to the very end of the 2013-2104 legislative session, wondering and guessing at an outcome, I continued to fall back on common sense, an admittedly naïve perspective. What are the realistic alternatives to passage? What legitimate arguments against passage could possibly remain? That the bills were not perfect? They never are. Or that the needs of Michigan’s seriously ill citizens was not a legislative priority? A disappointing reality. Or that the pharmaceutical and alcohol industries blocked passage? An even more depressing reality. Or perhaps our elected representatives did the right thing this December, just because it was the right thing to do. That will be cause for celebration indeed.
This is what I can tell you however, without question: I have worked with, met and looked into the faces of many of Michigan’s most ardent and hard working advocates for medical marihuana and one of two things is going to happen in January. Either the community and the state will be working together to regulate a newly protected retail industry, or the community is in high gear for a legalization ballot initiative in 2016. Either way, we will be rolling up our sleeves. As a Michigan native, one thing I have always admired about this state and its people is that we never give up. And so we look to the New Year with promise, and hope.