The Michigan House gave final approval to bills Wednesday that would further regulate medical marijuana nearly eight years after voters first authorized it. Governor Rick Snyder is expected to sign the package of bill as early as today.
The main legislation consisted of imposing a new tax and establishing a state licensing system to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana. The final vote for that was 83-22.
Non-smokable marijuana in food and lotions was legalized 93-12.
Another measure that passed 85-20 legalized the tracking marijuana from “seed to sale” and flag excess purchases.
Approximately 211,000 patients registered with the state obtain their marijuana from 37,000 designated caregivers grow or their own under the current law.
Supporters cite court ruling spurred by prosecutions in saying the legislation is needed to allow dispensary businesses that have gone unchecked in some municipalities and have been blocked in others. Backers add that marijuana would be safer if it were tested and distributed through a tiered system similar to alcohol. Patients, including children, also could benefit from using alternatives such as marijuana pills, they say.
Some marijuana advocates say the 3% tax on dispensaries would couple with adding more middlemen between growers and sellers and make marijuana a more expensive and potentially lead to more fraud and abuse. There also is criticism that patients who continue growing their own marijuana or buying it from caregivers have to help pay for the additional regulations. The legislation allocates $8.5 million to implement the licensing and tracking systems; the money would come from a fund that is financed with fees that patients and caregivers must pay to get registry ID cards.
Growers, processors, shippers, testing facilities and dispensaries – also called provisioning centers – could not obtain a state license unless their local government adopts an authorizing ordinance. Municipalities could cap the number of licenses within their borders and assess no more than a $5,000 fee per license. A state board would charge application and renewal fees to cover costs including for substance abuse programs and law enforcement.
Legislative economists have not estimated how much in tax revenue may be generated. The money would be split with 30% going to counties with marijuana facilities, 25% to cities or township with facilities. Michigan State Police, county sheriffs, an law enforcement standards commission would each get 5%.
The state’s share initially would go to the general fund. Starting in October 2018, it would be deposited into a fund to cover workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters with certain types of cancer.
The laws will take effect 90 days after they are signed. But people wanting state operating licenses could only begin applying 360 days later, likely sometime in early 2018. The state is required to seek outside bids from companies wanting to create and run the marijuana tracking system. Once a contract is awarded, the firm would have 180 days to deliver.