Is Michigan Med Cann About to Join the 21st Century?

For those of you tracking the development of cannabis regulations across the country, you know that regulations continue to get more restrictive and onerous with only a few exceptions.

The “few exceptions” have been whittled down to California and Michigan – both notorious for their “Cannabis Version 1.0” approach to regulating the plant, which is to say they had little statewide regulation whatsoever.

California recently “upgraded” from their 1996 ballot initiative that was well known for its local enforcement and total absence of statewide regulations.  Cali is in the midst of developing rules for their mammoth new law, MMRSA, that creates an extensive infrastructure for statewide licensure and enforcement.

That left Michigan, with its 180,000 medical marijuana patients and absolutely no statewide grower or dispensary licensing system.  We have friends operating excellent collectives in places like Lansing and Ann Arbor – but it is a far different situation with constant threats of municipal crack-downs on their businesses.

It looks like Michigan is about to join California in the 21st Century:

State lawmakers could sign off as soon as this week on legislation to establish a statewide oversight and licensing system for MMJ businesses.

That’s something Michigan has lacked since voters legalized medical cannabis in 2008. Michigan’s freewheeling MMJ industry has been technically illegal since a 2011 ruling from the state Supreme Court. Instead, the MMJ market is composed of a patchwork of regulations that vary by municipality.

More specifics about the law:

HB 4209 is the centerpiece of the package, and lays out most of the regulations. Together, the five bills would:

  • Establish five license types – grower, processor, dispensary, transporter, and testing lab.
  • Create three subcategories for cultivation licenses – one with a 500-plant limit, one with a 1,000-plant limit, and one with a 1,500-plant limit.
  • Set no statewide cap on the number of licenses that could be issued.
  • Mandate an unspecified annual licensing fee for MMJ businesses.
  • Institute a requirement that local governments must adopt ordinances to specifically permit MMJ companies, and give their blessing to those that want to set up shop. Municipalities also could establish their own licensing fees of up to $5,000 a year, on top of the state fees.
  • Require businesses to secure “minimum levels of insurance.” It’s unclear what that would mean, but would be clarified during the rulemaking process.
  • Allow some vertical integration. While growers, processors and dispensaries would be allowed to overlap, they couldn’t hold transporter or testing lab licenses.
  • Mandate lab testing for MMJ product to ensure they aren’t contaminated. The testing also would determine potency levels.
  • Legalize edibles and extracts for the first time.
  • Establish a two-year residency requirement for MMJ business owners and investors that would expire June 30, 2018.
  • Require all MMJ businesses use a seed-to-sale tracking system.

Good luck, Michigan – Illinois would be happy to welcome you into the fold of Midwest Medical Cannabis States!

Marijuana’s Five-Year Plan: Aspirin or Alcohol?

Predicting where the country is headed with regards to marijuana is a fool’s errand.

There are too many unknowns: the next President, rescheduling vs. descheduling, FDA approval of cannabis-based drugs, recreational ballot initiatives, cannabis research studies, and so many other factors that will decide what 2021 cannabis looks like.

But one thing is clear.  We need to collectively decide whether we want to treat cannabis like aspirin or liquor.

aspirin liquor-store

There are pro’s and con’s to each approach.

If we treat cannabis like aspirin, we head down a highly-regulated, nearly-perfect manufacturing process that ensures consistent product.  We can expect the involvement of doctors, pharmacists, pharmacies, and yes, even pharmaceutical companies.  Sour Diesel in Oregon will look, taste, and feel like Sour Diesel in Colorado, or like Sour Diesel in Massachusetts.  With a pharmaceutical approach we strip away both the heavy metals and the terpenes.  We lose mom & pop growers but gain repeatable health benefits (and risks).

If we regulate cannabis like alcohol, cannabis loses the stigmatization and over-regulation.  Cannabis-as-alcohol will democratize access to the plant, and welcome business moguls and neighborhood cannabis shop-owners alike.  Cannabis-as-alcohol will organize significant federal and state lobbying initiatives, adopt the loved/maligned alcohol distributor model, permit public consumption for social use, and pose greater risks for over-consumption and other health risks.

If we do not choose a path, the government will choose for us.  Left to its own devices, government is sure to choose the pharmaceutical model, and there are legitimate reasons for, and against, this approach.

Which way do you think is better?