Michigan has had a medical cannabis law in place for nearly 10 years, so it may not surprise some readers to learn that in 2018 Michigan is projected to have the second largest medical marijuana market in the country 1. What is on the horizon for the Great Lakes State now that is about to take it’s place as a medical marijuana heavyweight?
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) of 2008 enabled caregivers to grow up to 72 plants for a maximum of 5 patients but did not make legal any type of cannabis business, nor cannabis products. Caregivers have manufactured and sold overages to dispensaries for years, but the dispensaries have operated in a legal limbo. While some live in very permissive areas where municipalities allow businesses to operate, patients in other parts of the state have to fight for access. This unequal enforcement has caused some businesses to flourish and others to be raided and shuttered.
A more even playing field is coming due to the passage of the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) in 2016. Licenses will soon be granted for three levels of cultivation, manufacturing, testing, secure transport, and retail businesses. Oils, edibles, and non-smokable forms of cannabis are also newly legal thanks to an amendment to the MMMA.
Applications for licensure under the MMFLA will be accepted beginning December 15, 2017. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is releasing information at a quickening pace, making public the rules that will govern the industry and application process. Advocates and prospective licensees are currently grappling with issues such as a statewide dispensary shut down prior to the start of the licensing process and the ability to stack the largest cultivation licenses. Advocates and small businesses are fighting to create a level playing field while the lobbyists of the monopolists are working behind the scenes and from appointed positions to ensure their clients’ interests are protected.
As the MMFLA licensing process moves forward, the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA) formed to legalize the adult use of cannabis through a citizen’s led ballot initiative. The coalition was formed by Marijuana Policy Project and includes the ACLU, the Drug Policy Alliance, the National Patients Rights Association, Michigan NORML, and MILegalize. With the initiative’s successful passage in November 2018, we will achieve yet another crucial benchmark toward the goal of toppling federal prohibition: creating the first non-prohibitive state in Midwest.
This initiative does not change the state’s 2008 caregiver law or the 2016 MMFLA, other than eliminating the sales tax on medical marijuana. In fact, the initiative allows for a smooth transition from medical-only to medical and adult use by structuring the licenses as they are in the MMFLA but with the notable exception of adding a microbusiness license. Microbusinesses will be seed-to-sale license holders operating with a 150 plant limit. Similar to a brewpub or micro-distillery, these businesses will grow, process and sell their products from the same location and will only be allowed to sell directly to consumers. This new license will provide small businesses and caregivers a unique pathway to be able to compete in the adult use market, while maintaining opportunity for the larger businesses that wish to operate in Michigan.
Currently, the CRMLA campaign has collected just over 90 percent of the required signatures needed to ensure placement on the 2018 ballot. However, reaching the ballot is not a sure thing just yet. The coalition needs additional financial support to keep signature collectors working the streets so that the task can be completed by the November 2017 deadline. Ending prohibition in a state in the heart of America is the next tipping point for our industry, and it will take the support of everyone who has a stake in this industry to make sure that it happens. Robin Schneider, CRMLA’s Director of Finance, will be in Las Vegas attending the fall MJBizCon meeting with those who want to learn about the opportunities in Michigan. To schedule a meeting with Robin, for more information about the campaign, or to provide financial support, please visit www.RegulateMI.org.
Author Bio: Lissa Satori is an accomplished statewide organizer of grassroots marijuana reform organizations. During her years as a leading patient advocate in Ohio, she was the Executive Director of Ohio Rights Group, the Founding Chair of Ohio’s only Women Grow Chapter, a founding member of the Ohio Hemp Chamber of Commerce, and the Founder of UnitedOhio. In 2016, she successfully united the vast majority of Ohio activists and led the volunteer effort for Ohioans for Medical Marijuana. She then served as Campaign Manager for the successful reelection of Hamilton County Commissioner Todd Portune (Cincinnati). Earlier this year, she became a Michigan resident and is now serving as the Director of Outreach for Michigan’s Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol. You can contact her at Lissa@RegulateMI.org.