Marijuana implementation may take years


Michigan became the 10th state in the country, and the first in the Midwest, to legalize the use of recreational marijuana, but don’t celebrate just yet.

Although residents voted Nov. 6 in favor of recreational marijuana, it may take weeks before Michiganders can actually use it and years before recreational marijuana businesses can begin selling it.

According to Fred Woodhams, spokesperson for the Michigan Secretary of State office, the county boards of canvassers will take up to two weeks to certify their results. The Board of State Canvassers then will meet shortly after that to do the final certification.

By law, certification has to happen by Nov. 26 at the latest and then 10 days for it to go into effect, he said.

However, it is a bit unclear how the new law will be regulated. The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will be implementing the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

Shelly Edgerton, director of LARA, said it has the option of replicating the structure it has now governing medical marijuana.

“Our licensing and regulatory infrastructure for medical marihuana can be scaled up to incorporate the oversight of adult-use marihuana,” she said in a statement. “We intend to offer more details regarding the commercial production and distribution of marihuana for adult-use after the Michigan Board of Canvassers certifies the election results.”

Josh Hovey, a spokesperson for Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a proponent of the proposal, said its campaign committee, which is made up of individual coalition members who represent the Drug Policy Alliance, ACLU of Michigan, Marijuana Policy Project, National Cannabis Industry Association, Michigan NORML, MI Legalize and other organizations will be advocating to LARA and local governments during the rulemaking process.

He said after the law is implemented, the state will have one year to promulgate rules and develop the application process for those who would like to open businesses. Then, Hovey said, it will take an additional year to accept and review applications and grant the first set of recreational marijuana licenses to open a marijuana business.

Although there are over 600 medical marijuana licenses still pending approval by LARA, Jamie Cooper, founder of Cannabiz Connection, said she believes medical marijuana businesses will be the first to begin selling recreational marijuana, but that will be a couple years from now.

For now, once the passage of the proposal is certified in the next few weeks, the immediate effects of the new law will be felt.

“Anyone who possesses (marijuana) recreationally will not get in trouble with law enforcement,” she said. “Before this vote, if people had product on them and they didn’t have a medical marijuana card, they risked getting arrested.”

The new law will immediately stop the arrest of individuals who personally possess less than 2.5 ounces of marijuana, 10 ounces in a locked container at home and 12 marijuana plants in their home.

Individuals who are waiting for their medical marijuana license can now use recreational marijuana, as long as they stay within the legal realm of the proposal. A medical marijuana license will grant individuals with higher potency, according to Cooper.

However, under the marijuana proposal, individuals can become subject to arrest if they are publicly consuming marijuana or driving under the influence of marijuana.

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