Snyder signs ‘landmark’ medical pot reforms

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing — Gov. Rick Snyder on Wednesday signed what his office called “landmark” medical marijuana legislation to regulate dispensaries and clarify the legality of edible products in Michigan.

The new law, which builds on the state’s 2008 voter-approved medical pot law, will allow licensed dispensaries to operate in communities that choose to allow them. Growers, processers, testing facilities and transporters will also be licensed and regulated.

Other bills in the package formally legalize patient use of marijuana-infused products, including edibles and “tinctures,” and create a “seed-to-sale” tracking system designed to ensure medical pot does not leak into the black market.

“This new law will help Michiganders of all ages and with varying medical conditions access safe products to relieve their suffering,” Snyder said in a statement. “We can finally implement a solid framework that gives patients a safe source from which to purchase and utilize medical marijuana.”

The new regulations bring some clarity to a medical marijuana law that had prompted several major legal fights, including a state Supreme Court ruling empowering county prosecutors to shut down dispensaries and a court of appeals ruling that edible pot was not a “usable” form of the drug allowed for medical purposes.

The reform package was supported by groups like the National Patient’s Rights Association but opposed by some activists who thought it would undermine the voter-approved system allowing caregivers and patients to grow a limited number of plants at home.

Oakland County Sheriff Mike Bouchard also raised concerns about the bills, arguing they do not go far enough to prevent criminals from running pot shops. The bills prohibit felons with drug convictions from operating a licensed dispensary within a decade of conviction or incarceration.

The new law includes a 3 percent tax on gross retail receipts at medical marijuana dispensaries, and dispensary purchases would also be subject to the state’s 6-percent sales tax.

Those taxes could generate some $64 million a year, according to an initial analysis by the Senate Fiscal Agency, which based its projections 2015 numbers from Colorado’s medical marijuana industry.

The dispensary tax could generate $21.3 million, according to the analysis, with revenue going towards a firefighter cancer presumption fund, local governments, sheriff’s departments and state police.