Michigan’s medical marijuana program may finally be on its way to receiving a much needed overhaul sometime this year. On Wednesday, the House Judiciary Committee took swift action in the passing of several bills aimed at changing the current law to allow the licensing of dispensaries and to put cannabis edibles back on the shelves.
In order for the three proposals to gain any traction with the Republicans, lawmakers were forced to include provisions that would establish an excise tax as well as one lending itself to the development of a tracking system that would monitor all activity from cultivation to the cash register.
Lawmakers wanted to ensure their submission this year includes a tighter set of regulations in order to prevent a repeat of the law enforcement debacle from 2014.
One of the proposals suggests establishing a multi-tiered system, which would be overseen by a governor appointed panel, for the cannabis industry, including the use of “secure transporters” to move pot products between growers and distributors.
Not surprisingly, there was some opposition to this concept from the Democrats because they believe it will inflate the cost of participating in the program and drive patients back into the black market.
“What we’ve seen in other states is if you treat the medical marijuana like enriched uranium and you try to wrap it in red tape what ends up happening is that more and more people turn to the illegal market,” said State Representative Jeff Irwin.
Another proposal specifically indicates that marijuana edibles, such as candies and oils, would be permitted.
When it comes to paying for Michigan’s program update, the proposal suggests imposing an 8 percent excise tax on cannabis products in addition to the state’s 6 percent sales tax. The money would then be used offset the cost of regulatory controls and the expense of law enforcement.
No one has any idea whether the package stands a chance at doing the distance, but most believe there are significantly better odds than last year.
“Too soon to say at this point, as not everyone has had a chance to review them yet,” said Gideon D’Assandro, spokesman for House Speaker Kevin Cotter. “But I think most people realize there are problems with the recent law that need to be fixed.”
In order to pass, the proposals would need to secure a majority vote in both chambers.
The package now heads to the full House for consideration.