Medical Marijuana Update

On Wednesday, October 7, 2015, the Michigan House passed three Republican House Bills that will have quite an impact on Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act if passed by the Senate and signed into law by Governor Snyder.

House Bill 4209 would create a new licensing board to oversee, regulate, and tax marijuana dispensaries, large-scale growers, processors, distributors, and testing facilities. While these dispensary-related operations are currently illegal in Michigan, many communities (most notably Ann Arbor and communities near Detroit) have tolerated medical-marijuana dispensaries. This is probably a consequence of the political climate in those communities and the elected prosecuting attorneys’ in those communities being reluctant to risk getting voted out of office for shutting the dispensaries down. It will be very difficult to find an operating medical-marijuana dispensary in West Michigan. Under this House Bill, marijuana dispensaries would pay a 3 percent income tax, and purchasers of marijuana would pay a 6 percent sales tax. Also, a local community could prevent a dispensary from operating if the community doesn’t approve.

House Bill 4210 would legalize the use of edible marijuana for approved users and would include the use of tinctures, beverages, and food. Edible medical marijuana is currently illegal in Michigan primarily because the law is inartfully drafted and because lawmakers have a concern about regulating the concentration of THC in an edible product. This House Bill would require edible marijuana products to be in certain amounts and labeled and packaged in approved containers. It also prohibits patient to patient transfers of all medical marijuana and limits transfer from primary caregiver to only those persons that the primary caregiver is authorized to provide product to.

Third, House Bill 4827 would allow Michigan to purchase a computer program and database to track marijuana production via encoding each plant from seed through production. This computer program seems an unrealistic and unwieldy obstacle to commercial production of medical marijuana, and it would require constant weighing, voluminous data input, and huge labor costs for producers.

At first glance, this package of House Bills seems to provide more protection for medical-marijuana users. However, it’s clear that Michigan seeks to control and regulate production and taxation to the extent that medical marijuana users are almost dependent on the taxed product from regulated producers rather than home-grown product. Efforts to pass these laws were undertaken last year, but the Bills were defeated in the Senate. This time around, the Bills seem to have the support of Governer Snyder and local law enforcement. Of course, this might all be for naught if Michigan voters pass a constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana in the next election.

Jeffrey M. Schroder, Esq.

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