Last week, the Michigan legislature failed to pass a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana in Michigan. As a result of that failure, the voter driven Initiative will be on the November ballot, allowing the voters to decide whether recreational marijuana use will become legal in Michigan or not. The ballot Initiative, which was supported by the group Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, received the necessary petition signatures to place the measure on the November ballot. While no one can say if voters will approve the Initiative, given the levels of support that polling has shown for passage of the measure, it is worth discussing what the proposal would mean for cannabis users in Michigan, as well as what, if any impact the measure would have on the Medical Marijuana regulations and administrative rules that are currently in place.

Initiative Basics: The Initiative proposes to legalize recreational use of marijuana in the State of Michigan, but also creates certain statutory boundaries to regulate when, where, who, what and how cannabis can be used. The Initiative requires the Secretary of State’s Bureau of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs to create administrative rules regulating the answers to those questions. Further, the Initiative also creates a new licensing scheme for creating regulated business to grow, process, sell, test, and transport recreational marijuana. The Initiative’s licensing scheme is similar to that of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities’ Licensing Act, though there are some differences.

Initiative Specifics: The Initiative will only allow a person age 21 or older to possess marijuana. A person will only be allowed to possess 2.5 ounces or less of usable marijuana or its equivalent as defined by State Law, at any given time in a public place. A person cannot operate a motor vehicle, snow mobile, boat, plane or other motorized form of transportation while under the influence of marijuana, as that term has been defined by statute and the Courts. A person would only be able to consume in a public place if the city or municipality has opted into the new law, and has designated a public space as one available for consumption of cannabis. A person would only be able to consume marijuana in a private establishment if such establishment has expressly permitted consumption on its private grounds, and all consumption takes place within the private confines of the establishment. A person could consume recreationally within their own home but could not possess more than 2.5 ounces within the confines of their residence, unless all amounts over that limitation were stored in a locked safe or other closed container that had locks or other security devices to restrict access to the container’s contents.

Under the new act a separate set of licenses would be available for businesses to obtain regarding recreational marijuana. The licenses are similar to those available under the MMFLA (Medical Marijuana Facilities’ Licensing Act), though there are differences. The six license types that are created by the Initiative would be for growers, processors, retailers, secured transporters, safety compliance facilities (testing labs), and a new category, called marijuana microbusinesses. The Bureau of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will have to create rules about how to obtain, run and enforce compliance for these businesses. There will likely be similarities to the process currently in place for medical cannabis facilities, though there are expected to be significant differences as well, some of which are set forth in the Initiative itself. While time will give us clarity on what to expect from LARA, there are a number of important things we know from the Initiative itself that all voters, including cannabis users and non-users, should be aware of.

Important Points for Awareness: In short, the Initiative will permit the following:

Legalizes marijuana/cannabis possession of 2.5 ounces or less of usable marijuana or its equivalent or less by persons 21 and older.

Prohibit operation of a motor vehicle, boat, airplane, snow mobile, RV or other motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana

Creates new licenses for recreational marijuana/cannabis facilities; namely;

-Growers (3 Classes: A – 100 Plants; B – 500 Plants; C – 2000 Plants)
-Processors
-Retailers
-Secured Transporters
-Safety Compliance Labs
-Marijuana Microbusiness

New Marijuana Microbusiness license would allow a person to grow 150 plants, process and package marijuana and sell it to people 21 years of age or lower at ONE location. Could not provide marijuana to outside processors or retailers and could not sell grown or processed marijuana from the microbusiness at any location outside the retail store. Microbusiness owners could have only one location until 2023, when multiple location or franchising would be able to be considered by the legislature or LARA.

LARA will create a new administrative and licensing structure for regulation of recreational cannabis use and production

Will NOT affect the current Medical Cannabis regulatory scheme and will NOT affect the administrative rules which regulate licensing under the MMFLA.

Conclusion: The Initiative may or may not pass in November, though polling shows a substantial majority of people support its passage. However, time may change people’s opinions, and there will no doubt be an air wave blitz this fall supporting and opposing the Initiative. If it does pass, cannabis users and suppliers will, again, be eagerly awaiting implementation. Yet, there are many unanswered questions as well that still need clarity. Will MMFLA license holders receive preference in the recreational licensing process? Will those MMFLA license holders simply be grandfathered in and receive a license? Will the scheme LARA implements be that of Nevada, where only license holders of medical marijuana facilities would even be permitted to apply? What municipalities are likely to opt-in or opt-out of recreational marijuana use? For many of these questions, only time will tell. What we do know, is that the voters will now have a say in November as to whether Michigan will join the growing number of States nationwide that are going down the path of recreational legalization of marijuana.