Letter: Legalize pot, but with regulations

Nolan Finley’s June 17 Editor’s Note, “Get pot legalization right,” hit the nail on the head when it argued that Michigan must have a strong framework for accountability, traceability and public safety before marijuana is fully legalized.

For months, local Michigan medical marijuana businesses that support strong regulations have been working with our Legislature to put in place such a framework. Businesses, patients and others are working with policymakers such as Sen. Rick Jones (a former county sheriff), Rep. Klint Kesto (a former prosecuting attorney) and Rep. Lisa Posthumus Lyons (a west Michigan mom of four children and wife of a deputy sheriff) to develop a safe, responsible medical marijuana system that promotes patient safety.

This framework can help ensure that we clearly identify, as Finley says, “where the line between legal and illegal falls” so well-intentioned people — such as parents of sick children — don’t go to jail simply because they are trying to provide the best care and treatment for a loved one.

The framework that will work best for Michigan is a tiered system. That means producers, testers, distributors and retailers are kept separate, independent and licensed. Michigan is already home to other successful industries that have independent, separate tiers and we should emulate their successes and best practices.

A tiered system will promote greater accountability and product tracking at every stage. To keep out bad actors, safeguards should include background checks; licensing and training; caps on licenses; and rigorous inspections by law enforcement and regulators.

Licensing and strong regulations can help eliminate what Finley called “backyard pot plots” while keeping out fly-by-night operators who put profits ahead of patient safety. Strong controls can help us ensure patients get safe products and bad actors don’t sell marijuana to kids.

Strong, clear regulations will also provide greater certainty for businesses and help Michigan companies compete on a level playing field.

Bottom line: Before we open the floodgates to full legalization of marijuana, the best way for Michigan to prepare is to pass a strong medical marijuana framework that prioritizes patient safety and accountability without delay.

Kevin Pybus, president and CEO,

Cannaisseur, Lansing