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Medical marijuana laws expanded

ESCANABA – New laws on medical marijuana – recently approved in Michigan – allow large commercial productions of pot for medical purposes by facilities regulated by extensive licensing requirements, fees, testing standards, and a statewide internet tracking system of products.

Public Acts 281, 282 and 283 of 2016 are the laws which resulted from legislation introduced in the House of Representatives. Following approval by the House and the Senate, the bills were signed into law by Gov. Rick Snyder two weeks ago on Sept. 21. (See related article.)

The new laws do not change the medical marijuana law approved by Michigan voters in 2008, which allows qualified patients and caregivers to register with the state to home grow marijuana for medical purposes.

Conditions that qualify patients for medical marijuana use include Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, chronic pain, Crohn’s disease, glaucoma, HIV or AIDS, Hepatitis C, nausea, post-traumatic stress disorder, seizures, and other disorders.

According to the 2008 law, a patient may home grow their own medical marijuana but is limited to 12 marijuana plants that must be kept in a closed and locked facility. Otherwise, a patient may have one caregiver provide them with medical marijuana.

According to the 2008 law, a caregiver can assist no more than five medical marijuana patients. A medical marijuana patient is allowed to have up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana in their possession.

The new medical marijuana laws approved last month will offer qualified patients an alternative source to obtain pot for medical purposes either from a licensed commercial business that sells medical marijuana or from a caregiver who buys medical marijuana from a licensed dispensary.

The new laws will go into effect on Dec. 20, 2016, with the license application period beginning 360 days after that date.

At that time, a qualified person may apply to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) Medical Marijuana Licensing Board for a state operating license as “a grower” of up to 1,500 plants; “a processor” who packages medical marijuana, “a provisioning center,” which buys medical marijuana and sells it to patients or caregivers; “a secure transporter,” which stores marijuana and transports it between marijuana facilities, or “a safety compliance facility” that tests marijuana from a commercial facility.

Several stipulations must be met for each type of license. For example, until Dec. 31, 2021, a commercial grower or a processor must have a minimum of two year’s experience as a registered caregiver or have an individual with that experience as an active employee.

Each license will also require an application fee and an annual renewal fee. An annual regulatory assessment will also be charged to all licensees except safety compliance facilities.

Provisionary centers will be required to pay a tax on income, which will go to municipalities where marijuana facilities are allowed to be located under an adopted ordinance. These ordinances can limit numbers and types of marijuana facilities.

In addition, cities, villages and townships can impose an annual fee of up to $5,000 on a licensee to help defray administrative and enforcement costs associated with a facility’s operation in the municipality.

The licensing process also restricts people from applying because of past criminal convictions and controlled substance misdemeanors. Applicants must also pay for background checks on all employees.

A medical marijuana license exempts law-abiding licensees from marijuana-related criminal or civil prosecution.

On the other hand, the licensing board can impose sanctions and civil fines for license violations up to $5,000 against an individual and up to $10,000 or an amount equal to the daily gross receipts for each violation.

The new laws will appropriate $8.5 million to LARA for initial costs to create the Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act and the Marijuana Tracking Act and to implement, administer and enforce the laws.

The tracking act requires LARA to set up and maintain a statewide internet-based monitoring system for detailed seed-to-sale tracking, inventory and verification. Licensees must be connected to and enter data into the system at their own expense.

The tracking system will be available to licensees, law enforcement agencies, and authorized state agencies 24 hours a day to verify registry identification cards and licenses as well as track medical marijuana transfers.

A person applying for a medical marijuana license must also file proof of financial responsibility for liability for bodily injury to a qualified patient using their marijuana product.

The new laws pertain to marijuana and marijuana-infused products, which include oils, lotions, beverages, and edible substances containing usable marijuana. All products will be subject to testing by a licensed safety compliance facility which must employ at least one person with a relevant advanced degree in medical or laboratory science.

The Medical Marijuana Licensing Board will have jurisdiction over the operations of all marijuana facilities, which can be entered without a warrant or notice. A local police agency or the Department of State Police can examine a marijuana facility and all articles of property at any time.

In addition, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act – which currently does not allow a person under the influence of marijuana to engage in operating, navigating or being in physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, or motorboat – will now include snowmobiles and off-road recreational vehicles.

The new laws state patients and caregivers cannot transport any marijuana product in a motor vehicle unless it is sealed and labeled and not accessible from the vehicle’s interior. A civil fine of up to $250 can be imposed for violations.

The above examples of medical marijuana requirements are not all inclusive. For a complete list of requirements, review the laws in full.

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(906) 786-2021, ext. 143, jlancour@dailypress.net

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