On December 6, 2018, Michigan became the 10th state in the U.S. to legalize adult recreational use of marijuana. Michiganders turned out in record numbers in the November 2018 election, where recreational marijuana was on the ballot and passed by a 55%-44% margin—with nearly 500,000 more voters casting ballots in favor of ending marijuana prohibition. However, as is often the case in the complicated area of marijuana law, a lot of confusion exists over exactly what conduct is still illegal and what conduct is permitted by Proposal 1, which is now the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (or “MRTMA” for short). Here are 5 quick things to know:
- The MRTMA Permits Adults Over the Age of 21 to Possess, Consume, and Cultivate Marijuana. Those who are 21 and over can possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana and can consume marijuana in private or specifically designated public spaces. Consumption of marijuana in public is still illegal and can result in a fine and forfeiture of your marijuana. Households can also cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants so long as the plants are kept in an enclosed, locked facility and are not visible from neighboring properties. Adults can keep up to 10 ounces of marijuana in their home and can also keep any marijuana produced from plants that they cultivate so long as the marijuana is stored in a locked container.
- The MRTMA Does Not Permit Marijuana “Gifting” Businesses. The MRTMA permits small private transfers of marijuana between adults over the age of 21 so long as the amount transferred is less than 2.5 ounces and there is no remuneration or compensation of any kind. Several entrepreneurs have sought to exploit this provision for commercial gain by claiming that they are selling a product and then providing marijuana as a “free gift.” However, this claim of a “free gift” is an illusion. There’s no question that the totality of the transaction is a trade of cash for goods, including marijuana. As a result, these types of operations are still illegal and potentially could expose those who seek to flaunt the law to criminal felony charges. The gift permission within the MRTMA is really designed to permit friends to enjoy and consume marijuana together in private—not as a way to make money. To put it another way, if you have to pay for it, why is it a “gift”?
- Recreational Marijuana Businesses Likely Won’t Open Until Sometime in 2020. The MRTMA builds directly off of the regulatory and licensing framework established for medical marijuana in Michigan. In fact, most of the license types authorized on the recreational side are perfect parallels to the medical side. Both have grower, processor, retail, transport, and safety testing laboratory license types. The MRTMA gives the State one year to come up with a licensing process for recreational facilities, so interested entrepreneurs will have to wait until December 2019 to apply for a license. It will likely take several months after applications are turned in for the State to start handing out licenses, so you should not expect to see any recreational marijuana businesses licensed until sometime in 2020.
- If You Want to Purchase Marijuana from a Dispensary (a/k/a Provisioning Center) Before 2020, You Will Need a Valid Medical Marijuana Patient or Caregiver Card. More and more medical marijuana businesses continue to be licensed each month. Most of these businesses will eventually transition into recreational marijuana businesses once they can apply in December 2019. For now, however, they can only serve cardholding medical marijuana patients and caregivers. If you’re itching to visit a dispensary, you should review the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program website and consult with a physician to see if you’re eligible to receive your card.
- Driving While Under the Influence of Marijuana is Still a Crime. The MRTMA prohibits operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of marijuana. If you’ve decided to consume marijuana, don’t get behind the wheel. The same penalties for drunk driving apply to driving while stoned. Before using marijuana, make a plan on how to get where you need to be safely. Use a designated driver or utilize a taxi or ride sharing service like Uber or Lyft if you decide to partake.
If you’re interested in starting a marijuana business or if you’re facing criminal charges, contact attorney John Fraser at Grewal Law PLLC for a free initial consultation.