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Lansing — Medical marijuana companies seeking a state operating license would not need to subject owners with less than a 10 percent interest to the more "rigorous" financial background checks required of owners with greater shares under legislation passed by the Senate.

After the 30-7 vote on Thursday, the bill will advance to the House next week. 

The identity of all people with ownership in a medical marijuana business still must be made known to the state, said Amber McCann, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Grand Haven. But those with less than a 10 percent interest do not need to go through more than a preliminary background check. 

More: Legislative changes to recreational marijuana law stall in Senate

The bill includes an exception for publicly held companies, which would not need to name those owners with less than five percent interest.

The medical marijuana bills from Meekhof are similar to other banking operations, the Senate leader said.

“We thought we’d pattern it after something that already exists,” Meekhof said.

Republican Sen. Patrick Colbeck of Canton Township voted against the bill, noting the importance of knowing "who has financial share in these organizations.”

The bill largely marks a doubling in the threshold from a House bill passed Tuesday that would set the benchmark at five percent.

The legislation is likely to help large and publicly owned companies and the state that would otherwise need to disclose then vet the backgrounds of thousands of owners.

New York City-based Acreage Holdings noted the difficulties of the current law when announcing it had acquired Michigan-based medical marijuana business Blue Tire Holdings LLC in November.

The publicly traded company, whose board includes former U.S. House Speaker John Beohner of Ohio, told The Detroit News the existing law presented a challenge, but the company remained focused on its plan to acquire and develop properties for eventual clinic use.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs supported the bill as passed by the state House, noting that it would “allow a greater variety of businesses to invest in marijuana businesses yet still allows it to be administratively feasible to evaluate them.”

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

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