By Emily Lawler, Michigan Live, Republished with Special Permission
The Michigan Senate on Thursday moved suddenly to legalize and regulate medical marijuana dispensaries and non-smokable forms of the drug, discharging the bill from committee consideration and taking it up on the floor.
The bills work in concert to address the effects of court rulings that have left marijuana dispensaries and edibles in a legal grey area.
The bills would legalize and regulate dispensaries, drawing on the state’s alcohol regulations as a guide. The bills would also establish a “seed-to-sale” tracking system for medical marijuana.
And they would legalize edible forms of medical marijuana.
The House passed the legislation last year, and it’s been pending in the Senate Judiciary Committee since Oct. 8, 2015.
Sen. Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, sits on the Senate Judiciary Committee. He said the committee members, who heard testimony and experts, did not have the votes to pass it out. That’s why the Senate broke with its typical procedure to discharge the bills from committee and consider them on the floor, he said.
He opposes the bills in part because he thinks they move toward legalizing marijuana.
“Make no mistake that the end game of this legislation, with all its societal ills, is eventually the full legalization of marijuana in our state,” Colbeck said.
But Sen. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, said that was incorrect. He does not support recreational marijuana use, he said, but the bills address a patchwork of enforcement on medical marijuana issues statewide. He said he had talked with people from police associations, prosecutors and local governments about it.
“They’re all crying for help, for clarification. What we have now is totally out of control, like the Wild Wild West,” Jones said.
The Senate left the House bills largely intact, adding some small changes and one big dollar amount: $8.9 million from the Marihuana Registry Fund to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs for its initial costs of licensing and tracking marijuana.
In total, the Senate passed the following bills that had come over from the House:
- House Bill 4209 creates the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act to license and regulate the growth, processing, transport and provisioning of medical marijuana. It passed 25-12, and the no votes came from Republicans.
- House Bill 4210 amends the voter-initiated Michigan Medical Marihuana Act to allow for the manufacture and use of marijuana-infused products by qualified patients. It passed 28-9.
- House Bill 4827 creates the Marihuana Tracking Act and a seed-to-sale tracking system to track all medical marijuana.
The Senate also passed its own bills updating sentencing sentencing guidelines for selling marijuana in violation of registry identification card restrictions and exempting rules promulgated under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act from the Administrative Procedures Act.
The Michigan Cannabis Development Association praised the legislation’s passage in a statement Thursday.
“The framework created by this landmark legislation will allow the medical marijuana industry in Michigan to spark small business development, promote job growth and generate much-needed revenue for both the state and local communities,” said Willie Rochon, MCDA vice president and spokesperson.
The bills head next to the House. The House would have to OK Senate changes to its House Bill 4210 before sending its package to the governor, as well as take a first look at the bills that originated in the Senate.