Understanding New Rules The new role of the medical cannabis caregiver

Much has been made of the new Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing Act (MMFLA) “getting rid of caregivers.” While PA 281 of 2016, as it is now known, will no doubt have the effect of enticing some caregivers to give up their caregiver registry cards in favor of state licenses, getting rid of caregivers was neither the intent of the MMFLA, nor is it anywhere in the law itself.

The MMFLA is a wholly separate system from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) of 2008, and we are now seeing two separate, parallel systems which are also, as it happens, mutually exclusive in some respects. First, it is important to understand what the MMFLA does not do. It does not require any person who wishes to continue to engage in state-protected patient or caregiver conduct under the MMMA to give up anything. While the MMMA was amended, as many laws are in the course of their development, it generally holds that what you could do before December 20, 2016, you can do after. In other words, any caregiver who has no interest in a state license, who wants to continue being a caregiver, is free to do so. Simple as that.

“What the MMFLA has done is to provide an opportunity for people to secure a state license in order to engage in the production or sale of cannabis as a commercial enterprise.”

What the MMFLA has done is provide an opportunity for people to secure a state license in order to engage in the production or sale of cannabis as a commercial enterprise. The distinction is generally one that relates to the end user. For example, I can make soup for my family and friends without government oversight or regulation. However, when I want to sell my soup to a consumer public, that public expects that the food is safe to eat. That expectation of consumer product safety is secured by use of that “four letter word” regulation.

The government, also sometimes known as We The People, steps in and requires a commercial kitchen, ingredient labels, health department inspections, taxes, proper packaging and so on. Of course, some products are more heavily regulated than others, and considering cannabis’ long and distinguished suffrage under the “War on Drugs,” we can expect some seriously far out overreaction. One of those overreactions was the prohibition of caregivers holding grower or processor licenses or even working for a licensed grower or processor.

That said, the private caregiver system will continue for as long as there are caregivers interested in being caregivers. No doubt the commercial state-licensed industry will result in drawing off hundreds, or perhaps thousands, of caregivers whose primary goal is creating a commercial business, and that will reduce the caregiver population. However, nowhere in the MMFLA is that mandated. It is up to each person to decide whether they join the new green rush, continue as a private caregiver or maybe even do something in between. Remember, the mine owners were not the real beneficiaries of the California gold rush. The pick and shovel salesmen and the jeans manufacturers were the superstars and accumulated the most wealth. For those who measure success in dollars, taking a hard look at the unlicensed Tier 1 and Tier 2 supplier markets may end up being the best of both worlds.

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