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New Marijuana Licensing Rules a Real Racket

December 16, 2019

Letter from the President

By Brian Calley

The state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency has proposed new licensing rules for the industry, and it’s a real racket. The leadership of the state agency charged with regulating the marijuana industry slipped a provision into their rules proposal that requires all applicants for a marijuana license to enter into an agreement with a labor union to even be considered for a license. The problem is that no such requirement exists in the law. It was conjured out of thin air and is therefore illegal.

I don’t use the term “racket” loosely. Make no mistake; it is a shakedown of this burgeoning industry. In the proposed rule set, the requirement is for each applicant to secure a “Labor Peace Agreement” with a labor union. It’s defined just like it sounds. Marijuana businesses (most of which are small business) would have to sign agreements with unions to protect them from strikes, pickets, labor stoppages and other economic interference.

If you make an agreement with a union, you get peace. If you don’t, no peace. In a recent legislative hearing, Senator Nesbit compared the “Labor Peace Agreement” requirement to organized crime forcing small businesses to pay them for protection. And he’s right. That’s exactly what this is: a threat. Pay up or you’re out of business.

What makes this dishonest and underhanded scheme even worse is that they are exploiting an industry that is easy to take advantage of. None of them can operate without a license granted by the state. Applicants are scared to speak up – and for good reason.

Recent and sudden inventory rule changes that favor recreational marijuana over medicinal marijuana were made without process or transparency. I think we can now say that the Marijuana Regulatory Agency is the least transparent department in state government. There are many big winners and big losers in the inventory rule change. But why would the state favor recreational users over medicinal users? Those in the marijuana business are right to be afraid of this agency and its willingness to move against the public interest.

Many organizations in the greater business community are coming together to express strong opposition to this illegal scheme being perpetrated by the state. We have become increasingly concerned with the aggressive overutilization of unilateral executive action through administrative rule making. It bypasses the more transparent and appropriate lawmaking process.

The inability to move an agenda through the legislature is no excuse to bypass the constitutional process. If the administration wants to add a requirement for “Labor Peace Agreements” to licenses, let them seek it through a change in law, not an illegal and immoral shakedown of vulnerable small businesses.

And if you think this is just a marijuana industry issue, think again.

Michigan licenses many types of businesses and professionals. If the administration is able to get away with this, what’s to stop them from doing the same for all business licenses? This is an important issue for the marijuana industry, but also critical for nearly all businesses who could fall victim to the arbitrary whims of bureaucratic rule making.

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