Meekhof proposes marijuana law overhaul, home grow ban

Jonathan Oosting
The Detroit News
FILE -- In this Sept. 25, 2018 photo, a worker holds a marijuana plant leaf in a massive tomato greenhouse being renovated to grow pot in Delta, British Columbia, that is operated by Pure Sunfarms, a joint venture between tomato grower Village Farms International, and a licensed medical marijuana producer, Emerald Health Therapeutics. On Oct. 17, 2018, Canada will become the second and largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace.

Lansing — Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof is pushing to ban marijuana home grows that would otherwise be allowed under a recreational use legalization law approved by voters this month.

The West Olive Republican introduced legislation Thursday that proposed several major revisions to the initiative, arguing marijuana “basically is unregulated” under the new law.

But Meekhof acknowledged passing his bill before the end of the year in the lame-duck session will be a “heavy lift.” Changing laws approved at the ballot requires support from three-quarters of all legislators in the state House and Senate.

State Sen. Coleman Young II, D-Detroit, disputed Meekhof’s characterization that the law lacks regulations and called the bill a “slap in the face of voters” who approved it on Nov. 6.

The recreational marijuana law, set to take effect Dec. 6, will allow adults over the age of 21 to grow up to 12 plants each in their homes “for personal use,” which Meekhof predicted will encourage sales through the black market instead of licensed retailers.

 “You can have the argument whether you think it’s criminalized or not criminalized, but at the end of the day it needs to be regulated,” he said.

Meekhof’s proposal would also create a new marijuana business licensing board that would be appointed by the governor, much like the medical marijuana board established under a 2016 law and appointed last year by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The board has been slow to approve medical marijuana licenses after background investigations by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which would oversee licensing under the voter-approved recreational law.

“The last thing Republicans should be voting on is adding more layers of government to anything,” said Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Michigan Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol.

He noted the state allows residents to brew beer at home for personal use. “There’s no reason you can’t allow people to grow their own marijuana,” Hovey said.

Meekhof had urged colleagues in the GOP-led Legislature to adopt the citizen initiative before it made the ballot to make it easier to change. A law approved by the Legislature can be amended by a simple majority vote.

Republicans did not employ the strategy on the marijuana initiative but did adopt minimum wage and paid sick leave laws, which the Senate this week voted to significantly scale back.

“We had the votes” to adopt and amend the marijuana law too, Meekhof said Thursday. “I just didn’t have a willing partner in the speaker of the House.”

While changing the law now would require a super majority in both chambers, “I’m going to make an effort, because I think it is that important – I really do – for the safety of our communities," he said.