Medical marijuana bills win final approval from Legislature

In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals grow at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)
In this Sept. 15, 2015 file photo, marijuana plants with their buds covered in white crystals grow at the Ataraxia medical marijuana cultivation center in Albion, Ill. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman, File)

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Michigan would tax and regulate medical marijuana in a tiered licensing system under legislation that has won final legislative approval and that is expected to be signed by Gov. Rick Snyder.

The Republican-controlled House voted 83-22 for a main bill Wednesday to require a state operating license to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana used for medical purposes. Another bill clarifies that allowable marijuana includes non-smokable forms such as oils, food items and pills.

“Provisioning centers” that sell marijuana to patients or their caregivers would pay a 3 percent tax on their gross retail income.

Advocates say the measures are necessary due to confusion over Michigan’s 2008 voter-approved initiative that legalized medical marijuana.

A look at the marijuana measures that Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to sign into law:

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WHY IS IT NEEDED?

Under existing law, 211,000 patients registered with the state grow their own marijuana or obtain it from 37,000 designated caregivers who can supply a limited number of people. That system will continue. The bills’ supporters, citing court rulings spurred by prosecutions, say the legislation is needed to allow dispensary businesses that have gone unchecked in some municipalities and have been blocked in others under a Michigan Supreme Court ruling. Backers add that marijuana would be safer if it were tested and distributed through a tiered system similar to alcohol. Patients, including children, also could benefit from using alternatives such as marijuana pills, backers say.

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OPPOSITION

Some marijuana advocates say the new 3 percent tax on dispensaries — coupled with adding more middlemen between growers and sellers — would make marijuana a more expensive medicine and potentially lead to more fraud and abuse. There also is criticism that patients who continue growing their own marijuana or buying it from caregivers have to help pay for the additional regulations. The legislation allocates $8.5 million to implement the licensing and tracking systems; the money would come from a fund that is financed with fees that patients and caregivers must pay to get registry ID cards.

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LOCAL CONTROL

Growers, processors, shippers, testing facilities and dispensaries (“provisioning centers”) could not obtain a state license unless their local government adopts an authorizing ordinance. Municipalities could cap the number of licenses within their borders and assess no more than a $5,000 fee per license. A state board would charge application and renewal fees to cover costs including for substance abuse programs and law enforcement.

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TAX REVENUE

Legislative economists have not estimated how much in tax revenue may be generated. The money would be split as follows: 30 percent to the state; 30 percent to counties with a marijuana facility; 25 percent to cities or townships with a facility; 5 percent to the Michigan State Police; 5 percent to county sheriffs; and 5 percent for a law enforcement standards commission. The state’s share initially would go to the general fund. Starting in October 2018, it would be deposited into a fund to cover workers’ compensation benefits for firefighters with certain types of cancer.

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Online:

House Bill 4209-10, 4827 and Senate Bills 141, 1014

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