Medical Marijuana Laws Create New Business Opportunities in Michigan, But Not Without Risks

On September 21, 2016, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed three new medical marijuana bills into law. Public Act 281 (Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act) licenses and regulates growing, processing, provisioning, transporting and testing of medical marijuana.  Public Act 282 (Marihuana Tracking Act) creates a uniform system to track all medical marijuana from seed to sale. Public Act 283 amends the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 to permit the manufacture, sale and use of marijuana-infused products by qualified patients. All three acts go into effect on December 20, 2016.

The key law in this package is the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). The MMFLA provides growers, processors, retail sellers, transporters and testers the opportunity to apply for a license in order to lawfully operate a medical marijuana facility in designated locations. Which locations, we do not yet know. The MMFLA bestows the authority to determine the number of authorized facilities in a given area upon local municipalities. Thus, medical marijuana entrepreneurs have to patiently wait and see which municipalities are willing to embrace this budding industry.

Waiting on municipalities is not the only time hurdle to starting a medical marijuana facility in Michigan. Despite the law’s effective date of December 20, 2016, applicants cannot apply for a license for 360 days from that date, or December 15, 2017. Why the delay? The state has to, among other things, (1) elicit bids for, test and implement the tracking system created under the Marihuana Tracking Act (MTA), and (2) promulgate a comprehensive set of rules and standards for executing the new laws.

Although the new laws will create lucrative opportunities for those brave enough to enter the medical marijuana industry, those opportunities come with significant risks. Under federal law, marijuana is still considered an illegal drug with no currently accepted medical use. Thus, total compliance under state medical marijuana laws cannot protect you from arrest by federal agents. In addition, Michigan’s laws will no doubt become more cumbersome and difficult to comply with as more and more rules are promulgated by the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. If you are considering entry into this lucrative, yet potentially dangerous industry, do not do it alone. Ensure consistent state law compliance and stay up to date on the ever-evolving marijuana laws by keeping an experienced marijuana law attorney on retainer at all times. Even the slightest mistake in operating a medical marijuana facility in Michigan could cost you your business, and just maybe, your freedom.

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