What Exactly Is At Stake Here?
The State of Michigan is and has been rather involved in the debate on whether or not to legalize marijuana, certainly for medical use, but battling recreational use as well. There is clearly a split of opinion between those who wish to use marijuana (not matter how they choose to use it) versus governmental interests in prosecuting its use – be it smoked, bought, sold or otherwise. Two bills from the Michigan House of Representatives were to be brought before the State Senate this month. At issue are bills – House Bill 5104 and House Bill 4271. HB 5104 will further expand protections under the MMMA by allowing for ‘Medibles’. HB 4271 deals with what are called ‘Provisioning Centers’ more commonly known as dispensaries also providing for protection from prosecution if operated properly under the bill.
Medical Marijuana has become a rather trending and contentious issue as state lawmakers and law enforcement agencies statewide continue to battle against the rising popularity of this act. Cities around the state are passing local ballot initiatives to have small amounts of marijuana acceptable for recreational use, but it runs into difficulty when up against state law rules prohibiting and criminalizing the use of marijuana in any amount or form.
House Bill 5104 — The Alternative Smoking Bill
Medibles – edible forms of marijuana other than smoking. It seems a bit strange really – ‘SMOKING IS HARMFUL TO YOUR HEALTH’ – this is a well-established and long understood fact. The idea that there are other ways to benefit from medical marijuana while removing its carcinogens by taking it in edible form or as a liquid or even as a cream or lotion is a concept that may be hard to grasp – and the Michigan Legislature has recognized the deficiencies in the MMMA as currently written by adding this bill. Because 5104 extends the ways in which medical marijuana can be consumed it also provides defenses available to those who are ‘qualified’ to use or distribute medical marijuana under the MMMA. It defines key ‘classifications’ of legalized users of these products: registered patients, caregivers (primary), and dispensaries – so long as they satisfy those meanings under the act. If a person meets these requirements then HB 5104 stops them from being prosecuted for the making of a marihuana-infused product – thus this is known as the ‘Alternative Smoking Bill.’
HB 5104 also gives authority to how marijuana-infused items are to be labeled as well as what are acceptable items for use. This is an attempt at making edibles safe by providing products in protective packaging with descriptive labels to tell users how much marijuana is in any given item. Of note under the bill are the definitions of qualified users. A ‘registered patient’ making products for self-use, a caregiver who is given authority to ‘prescribe’ medical marijuana products to registered patients under the act, and finally, dispensaries that have been properly founded and operated. Lastly, ‘marihuana-infused’ products are listed in this bill in different forms meant for consumption other than smoking. If passed – this bill will take effect on April 1st of 2015.
House Bill 4271 – The Medical Marihuana Provisioning Center Regulation Act
An advisory panel; and to require the promulgation of rules This complements bill 5104 in that it allows for the creation and operation of both ‘dispensaries’ and ‘safety compliance facilities’ under the MMMA – a housing bill if you will. A provisioning center will have the right to buy, sell, receive and transfer marijuana from those qualified under the MMMA. The key here being that the dispensary must have a valid registration under the act from the location where it resides. This bill gives authority to local cities and townships in deciding whether or not it wants to grant registrations to dispensaries or safety compliance facilities and how those licensing requirements are to be required and regulated. The bill goes on to list age requirements for employees (no one under the age of 21 is allowed to work in one of these locations) and that those convicted of a drug-related felony or assault in the prior ten years would be disqualified from employment. It will be interesting to see the development of this act, if passed as to which communities around Michigan are willing to take on the expenses of regulating these centers as opposed to those that do not. It could be a rather expensive undertaking, but the prospect of this new revenue stream may be enough of an incentive to get cities and townships to approve the licensing and registration of these ‘service centers.’ To note – think of the dispensary as the retailer for medical-marijuana products and a safety compliance facility as a testing site for such products. If passed – this bill will take effect on April 1st of 2015.
Senate Bill 142 – Introduced in February 2015 and Referred to the Committee on Judiciary
The twin House Bills 5104 and 4127 are now as Senate Bill 142 – it includes 4127 and allows for governmental oversite on regulating medical marijuana provisioning centers and product-testing locations (again – known as safety compliance facilities). It gives immunity to those involved with medical marijuana as long as they are properly licensed — house bill 5104 – the ‘medibles’ act mentioned earlier and also allows for punishment in these areas if people are not following the rules listed. This is serious business and the State of Michigan recognizes that it may be at the forefront of states in the Midwestern part of the country to be at the forefront of this incredible grass-roots movement. If approved by the Governor’s office – these would go into effect in April.
Impact of these bills
The MMMA is still working in somewhat of a ‘gray area.’ Anticipated lawsuits from both sides of the aisle are very possible over the course of the next several months as these pieces of legislation are in their infancy and may likely be tested in courts around Michigan. This is an important topic and one that will have a direct impact on thousands of citizens statewide as ‘pockets’ of legalized marijuana-communities continue to pop up. There are likely going to be numerous ballot-proposals on this subject for 2015-2016 as this movement to legalize marijuana gains in strength. These twin bills, if passed, will continue to give greater weight and authority to these efforts.