HB 4271: Are Dispensaries Legal in Michigan?
Medical marijuana laws have been eased and clarified by the state House of Representatives recently by presenting House Bill 4271. The purpose of the bill is to allow access of medical grade marijuana to patients through a “provisioning center” or dispensary. HB 4271 also allows patients to obtain their marijuana from a dispensary and would allow caregivers to sell medical grade marijuana to the Provisioning Center Agents for distribution. As of today, those who are either operating a “provision center” or thinking of opening one now that HB 4271 has passed through the house, have no protections from criminal prosecution by the State or Federal governments.
When Michigan patients lost the ability to use dispensaries, immediate legislative action was required. House Bill 4271 does remedy this problem. Although the problem is section 5 of the bill which outlines the powers granted to municipalities if it is passed. Everything allowed is disallowed if a municipality (town, city or village) passed an ordinance prohibiting the operation of a dispensary. Meaning there will be city to city licensing. Dispensaries who violate local ordinances are subject to the full force of state law without protection.
With a simple vote, a city council or other local government body could shut them down, and if they failed to comply, dispensary owners would be subject to trafficking charges or other felonies. Advocates say that HB 4271 is fixing one problem but introducing a situation where marijuana laws will change with a five minute drive between towns. The importance of stability for entrepreneurs was demonstrated when the Michigan Supreme Court ruled current law did not allow existing dispensary models. HB 4271 is not yet up for a vote and could be modified substantially, so there is hope. Maybe Michigan legislators will see and remove the poison from the bill.
The Provisioning Center Act, empowers local communities within the state to license and regulate provisioning centers while enjoying protections from interference, over 100 dispensaries were in operation across Michigan prior to the MSC ruling in People v. McQueen. That ruling authorized a civil penalty method for shuttering distribution centers as a public nuisance. Since then medical centers from across the state have begun receiving letters demanding their operations cease and desist. The Act will establish rules for caregivers and patients to sell any excess marijuana to a center and identify plants less than 12” tall and 12” broad as seedlings and allows for their legal transfer. It will require baked goods or other products infused with cannabis have the items marijuana content clearly labeled and count towards a patient’s 2.5 ounce allowable weight; currently, a one ounce brownie containing two grams of marijuana counts as a full one ounce when determining AW. The Act would forbid any on-site consumption of cannabis except for infused tropical products. Lastly, it will require centers to keep records to verify the ten day waiting period, which are subject to municipal inspection.