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Lawmakers introduce package adding marijuana caregiver regulations, as activists protest 

click to enlarge New legislation would add more regulations for marijuana caregivers. - SHUTTERSTOCK
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  • New legislation would add more regulations for marijuana caregivers.
Lawmakers on Tuesday announced proposed bipartisan legislation that would create a new license and add more regulations for marijuana caregivers. On Wednesday, cannabis activists held an already-planned rally in Lansing to protest the bills that leaders told the Advance earlier this week they had heard were in the works.

The Michigan Cannabis Safety Act, House Bills 53005302, updates the state’s medical marijuana laws. Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana in 2008 and in 2018, they approved it for recreational use for those 21 and older. 

State Rep. Cynthia A. Johnson (D-Detroit) attended the Caregiver Rights Rally at the Michigan Capitol.

“These bills are hiding behind the curtain of safety,” she said. “They’re trying to say the marijuana you’re growing is not safe. Even before marijuana was legalized in our state, people with medical marijuana cards relied on these caregivers — and now they’re saying your pot is unsafe.”

State Reps. Jim Lilly (R-Park Twp.) and Richard Steenland (D-Roseville) introduced the bills, which were referred to the House Regulatory Reform Committee. 

“Michigan has an opportunity to be a national leader in cannabis safety, job creation and economic growth, and these bills help us rein in Michigan’s unlicensed cannabis market that threatens the health of all Michiganders,” Lilly said in a press release. “I support speedy passage of this important legislation to help promote cannabis safety, transparency and accountability in a regulated cannabis market.”

A representative from Lilly’s office said he was not available to further comment on Wednesday.

The package makes changes to both the voter-initiated Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and Michigan Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Act. 

The bills tighten rules for caregivers, claiming it’s about patient safety. Currently, medical marijuana caregivers are not required to test, track or label patient products and can sell their extra cannabis. The legislation targets Michigan’s unregulated cannabis supply and medical marijuana cultivated by caregivers. Lawmakers who support the legislation say it will ensure all cannabis is tested, labeled, tracked and licensed.  

Rally organizer Ryan Bringold could not immediately be reached for comment, but said earlier this month that caregivers are being unfairly targeted after helping to legalize medical and recreational marijuana in the state. Caregivers supplied many dispensaries and medical marijuana provisioning centers as they got up and running. 

The bills would establish a new specialty medical grower (SMG) license for unlicensed marijuana growers (UMGs), also known as caregivers, and limit grow rights.  

The proposed legislation requires testing of caregiver-grown medical marijuana and other cannabis products to protect patient safety and increase accountability, according to lawmakers. It also requires the sale or transfer be entered into the statewide METRC monitoring system as required under Section 3 of the Marihuana Tracking Act.

Medical marijuana grown by caregivers would have to be tested at one of the state’s safety compliance facilities. In addition, the law calls for products to be packaged and labeled with the name of the licensed specialty medical grower and the name of the safety compliance facility that performed the testing.

Besides the licensing and testing requirements, the proposed legislation prohibits registered primary caregivers from transferring or selling overages to any person who is not their registered patient. In addition, only one registered primary caregiver would be able to cultivate or manufacture marijuana at the same location unless certain conditions are met. They can designate an individual to assist in cultivating medical marijuana.

The proposed law does allow for specialty medical growers to sell or transfer overages to a grower licensed under the medical marijuana facilities licensing act if certain conditions are met. The law authorizes the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to process specialty medical grower license applications, which have a $500 fee, and enforce the new rules.

“All Michigan consumers deserve the opportunity to buy cannabis through licensed companies and businesses, and this legislation helps get us there by providing a pathway to enter the licensed marketplace,” Steenland said in a press release. 

The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, which represents many of the state’s largest growers, processors and vertically integrated cannabis licensees, also issued a press release praising the bipartisan legislation. GOP consultant and lobbyist Stephen Linder, also MCMA’s executive director, referred questions to his public relations firm.

“Our state is uniquely positioned to become a national leader in cannabis safety, innovation and entrepreneurship, and this legislation promotes transparency and accountability in Michigan’s cannabis market,” Linder said in a press release. “This legislation is a turning point on cannabis in Michigan that updates our laws intended by voters to provide access to safe, regulated cannabis products for all Michiganders.” 

Advance reporter Allison R. Donahue contributed to this story.

Originally published September 16, 2021 on Michigan Advance. It is shared here with permission.


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