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Homegrow Under Threat as Michigan Legalization Takes Effect

December 7, 2018
Possession and use of cannabis by adults 21 and over became legal in Michigan on Thursday. But already some state lawmakers want to ax the law's liberal homegrow rules. (CSA-Archive/iStock)

Michiganders awoke on Thursday to find themselves in a state where adult use of marijuana is legal—and the homegrow laws are among the most generous in the country. Now that the long fight for legalization is over and the bill passed by voters last month is officially in effect, the feeling across the state has been… pretty relaxed.

While adult-use sales aren’t expected to begin for a year or so, possession, consumption, and gifting of cannabis among adults 21 and older became legal at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday. Home cultivation of up to 12 plants per household is also allowed.

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Francis Gentile, a Grand Rapids resident and medical marijuana patient, didn’t wait to celebrate voters’ overwhelming passage of the law.

“As medical-card carrier, I celebrated the day after midterm election by boldly smoking my vape pen at the corner of Carlton and Lake Drive, but drivers and passersby couldn’t have cared less,” Gentile told Leafly. “That’s the way it ought to be!”

The general response across the state has been similarly positive, if not a bit subdued. Of those who are discussing the new law, most seem by and large supportive.

And while many woke up Thursday unaware anything had changed, many of the state’s most prominent advocates of ending prohibition took to social media yesterday to express their relief and accomplishment.

“We will have so much work to do to address the massive harm and damage this draconian policy has caused, but we made history in Michigan.”

“We will have so much work to do to address the massive harm and damage this draconian policy has caused, but we made history in Michigan, with the best legalization policy to date,” Grand Rapids advocate Tami VandenBerg, an MILegalize board member, posted on Facebook.

“We have waited for this day for so long,” said Michael Tuffelmire, a longtime advocate and community organizer. “Let’s not forget the many casualties that this 80 + year war has claimed. It has been an absolute honor serving on the MILegalize board for 3 years. I am proud to be part of an Army of leadership from across the state and to call all of them my brothers and sisters in the struggle.”

Rick Thompson, a cannabis business consultant and co-author of the ballot measure that is now law, was full of optimism. “Legalized adult use of cannabis is more than just personal freedoms–it’s a mile market on the pathway to a better state, a better citizenry, and a better America,” he wrote. “Being a better person, being more healthy, being in a community where alcohol consumption is not the norm and being able to speak openly with your physician and city leaders about cannabis- these are only a few of the benefits legalization brings.”

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This work has been important for our children to see, as well, Thompson said. “They can see that persistence and effort will win the day, even when the fight you pick is with the all-powerful US government. They can pursue the issues that are important to them with confidence that the people will have their voice heard.”

Michigan’s regulatory bureau handling cannabis licensing has already taken steps toward integrating the new bill, beginning by with a name change. What was the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) is now the the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation (BMR). The BMR, which operates under the state’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). The bureau is trying “to communicate in a way that makes sense to the public at large,” said Director Andrew Brisbo.

Under LARA, the BMR is tasked with developing licensing and regulatory guidelines for both medical and adult-use. The BMR will be modeling regulatory guidelines for recreational facilities closely after the state’s recently established medical regulatory system, Brisbo said.

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LARA has one year, Brisbo notes, to begin accepting applications for adult-use cannabis facilities. He declined to speculate on how long the application process could take, but industry experts have speculated this will depend largely on the BMR’s board and the composition of its members.

Meanwhile, legalization opponents in Michigan aren’t going down without a fight. Michigan Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof proposed a bill late last month that would strip the new law of its allowance for home cultivation. It would also slash recreational cannabis taxes from 10 percent to 3 percent, which would mean far less revenue for schools and roads, which the bill’s advocates have described as sorely needed.

“It’s disrespectful to the political process, and it’s disrespectful to the voters of Michigan,” MILegalize spokesperson Josh Hovey told Mlive last week.

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Meekhof told reporters about his misgivings with the new law just before Thanksgiving. “I personally have concerns with the homegrow part of it, we’ve left that wide open on the backside there,” he said. “I don’t know that this state would hire folks or locals would hire folks to go around and see if everybody is only growing 12 plants.”

The bill would also make it more difficult for residents to challenge local government bans on cannabis facilities by running ballot initiatives.

But the proposal from Meekhof, a Republican, would need majorities in both chambers to pass, and some observers doubt he’ll will be able to garner Democratic support considering the measure won the approval of 57% of state voters.

Marjorie Steele's Bio Image

Marjorie Steele

Marjorie Steele is an independent journalist, poet, and adjunct faculty member at Kendall College of Art and Design of Ferris State University, in Grand Rapids, Michigan.

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  • JohnB

    The headline reads as if this is a legitimate threat, one with an actual possibility of happening.

    It is not. The votes aren’t there.

    • Sniglet66

      Headlines haven’t matched the content of articles for some time now. Gotta get those clicks!

  • Ben Witbrodt

    There does not need to be anyone going around to see if you only have 12 plants. There should only be an investigation if the number of plants you have is the center of a complaint. I don’t think there will be many of those.

  • Matt

    The bill doesn’t just lower taxes, it actually STRIPS the schools and roads from receiving any tax revenue.

    Per Mlive, “In addition to lowering the tax rate from 10 percent to three percent, the bill cuts out Michigan’s schools and roads from receiving tax revenue from legal marijuana. The state’s six percent sales tax would still apply, said Amber McCann, Meekhof’s spokeswoman.”

  • Matt

    One thing to note is that the tax revenue beneficiaries won’t just get less, they’ll get nothing.
    “In addition to lowering the tax rate from 10 percent to three percent, the bill cuts out Michigan’s schools and roads from receiving tax revenue from legal marijuana. The state’s six percent sales tax would still apply, said Amber McCann, Meekhof’s spokeswoman.”