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Regs For Recreational Marijuana Mirror Medical In Ballot Language

May 9, 2017

Courtesy MIRS News

The coalition leading the latest marijuana legalization effort finalized its ballot language today, with the final product bearing several parallels to the regulatory structure set up for medical marijuana.

“We’re going to implement some controls and regulations very similar to what the state passed on the medical side,” said Josh Hovey, an official with Truscott Rossman and spokesperson for the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol (CRMLA).

As some predicted when the Legislature pushed the bills to passage last fall, the structure for the state’s medical marijuana industry will largely be extended to legalizing marijuana for recreational use.

The CRMLA announced the submission of its final ballot language to the state today — seeking approval to form for its petition — with a signature-collecting drive expected to follow that’s aiming for a November 2018 ballot appearance.

Like the medical marijuana law, licenses will be available for cultivators, processors, testing facilities, transporters and retail stores.

However, CRMLA added a sixth license type, microbusinesses, which are designed to be small businesses licensed to cultivate up to 150 plants and to process, package and sell it directly to consumers.

Under CRMLA’s proposal, grower licenses could be divided up into three classes – up to 100 plants, 500 plants and 2,000 plants. In the medical marijuana law, those classes are for 500, 1,000 and 1,500 plants.

Jeff Irwin, a former House member from Ann Arbor who is now the CRMLA’s political director, said the CRMLA initiative and the medical marijuana laws would act on “parallel” tracks. He said it could be possible for local governments to give permission to shop owners who want to be licensed to sell both recreational and medical marijuana.

As with the medical marijuana laws, local governments have the power to regulate marijuana businesses in their communities or not allow them at all, according to the CRMLA. Locals have to “opt-in” to allowing marijuana as they do with medical marijuana facilities, and with that, get a share of the revenue pie promised to locals that allow marijuana.

Local groups like Michigan Municipal League (MML), the Michigan Townships Association (MTA) and the Michigan Association of Counties (MAC) said they haven’t come to a formal opinion on the final CRMLA language today.

Yet, Stephan Currie, executive director of MAC, said its “base position” is that “any state regulation of marijuana products should ensure additional revenue for substance abuse programs.”

And Larry Merrill, executive director of the MTA, said the question of whether locals have sufficient discretion about whether marijuana is sold in their jurisdictions is huge for them.

Irwin said the CRMLA proposal would be a “huge gain” for local governments, because they’re “wasting a lot of time and money” in trying to enforce prohibition of marijuana. He said saved money from those enforcement efforts will add to the additional tax revenue that would come locals’ way if they allow the marijuana businesses in their borders.

The CRMLA will propose a 10 percent excise tax at retail, in addition to the state’s standard 6 percent sales tax.

Before, the group had been considering a weight-based excise tax on the wholesale level, Irwin said. He said the group sought to change the structure and rate of the tax from its original proposal to not create a big gulf between the illicit price and the regulated price.

The CRMLA wants to divide up the tax revenue by sending 35 percent to the School Aid Fund, 35 percent to the state transportation fund, 15 percent to municipalities that have a marijuana business and 15 percent to counties where a marijuana business is located.

In the draft language the group posted a few months ago, it had originally proposed divvying up tax revenue to community colleges and vocational schools, in addition to local governments.

Hovey said polling was done to gauge where voters wanted the tax revenue to go, and schools, roads and local government were among the needs identified.

The group is estimating its proposed taxes will generate somewhere north of $200 million in revenue.

Besides the cut-up of revenue to schools, roads and locals, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) will get funding in its role regulating the industry.

That, and another $20 million in revenue per year, for two years, will come off the top to fund federally approved research to analyze the benefits of medical marijuana to treat post-traumatic stress and other medical conditions of veterans.

Hovey said the use of medical marijuana to treat PTSD issues is one of the “hot research topics” on the medical side, and he said it’s “important research that needs to be done” and that Michigan could be on the forefront of that.

Michigan has already approved PTSD as a condition that can be treated with medical marijuana.

Here are other details from the CRMLA initiative:

– It will allow adults 21 and older to possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana outside their home. Inside their home, they could possess up to 10 ounces of marijuana, plus whatever they grow legally.

– It will allow adults 21 and older to grow up to 12 total marijuana plants in a single residence.

– It will not allow marijuana to be used openly and publicly, such as on the street, sidewalk or in a public park.

– It will prohibit driving a vehicle, motorboat, aircraft, ORV or snowmobile while under the influence of marijuana.

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