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Michigan Medical Marijuana Legislation

Is medical marijuana headed for state regulation?

Under a three-bill package currently making its way through the state Legislature, Michigan could soon have a state-regulated medical marijuana industry.

The legislation, House Bills 4209, 4210 and 4827, would license medical marijuana dispensaries in communities that want them. The bills would also permit non-smokable forms of marijuana and create a seed-to-sale tracking system for cannabis plants.

In addition, the proposals would impose an 8 percent tax on retail sales. The tax revenue would be divided between local municipalities, counties, sheriffs and the state’s general fund.

The dispensary legislation, House Bill 4209, would establish a five-tier licensing system for dispensaries, growers, testing labs, processors and so-called “secure transporters.” The governor would appoint a five-member board to handle the licensing and licensing fees would help support regulation and enforcement.

The tracking legislation, House Bill 4210, would authorize spending money from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Fund to create and maintain a marijuana tracking information system. This system is required under proposed HB 4827. The House Fiscal Agency has estimated the tracking system will cost about $227 for each registered patient, excluding other fees and taxes.

The bills would also create a separate set of regulations for medical marijuana businesses and impose criminal penalties for violators. In theory, these regulations may apply to recreational marijuana sales, if those are eventually legalized.

Both supporters and non-supporters of the legislation spoke at a recent House Judiciary Committee hearing.

Medical marijuana patients said they generally favor the idea of dispensaries and non-smokable forms of cannabis because it would give them better access to their medicine.

Certain law enforcement groups acknowledged the bills are an improvement over prior proposals. However, they said concerns remain about purportedly increasing access to marijuana.

Meanwhile, some medical marijuana activists said they do not support the legislation. They questioned the tiered system and the “secure transporter” license, which they said would function much like beer and wine wholesale distributors.

Others claimed the cost of regulation will be passed on to patients, who may go to the black market if prices are too high. They also pointed out that Michigan does not tax most other forms of medicine.

House Bill 4209 and House Bill 4210 were reported out of the House Judiciary Committee on Sept. 22 with substitute language. House Bill 4827 was reported out of the same committee without amendment.

The bills have now moved on to the full House.

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