Marijuana becomes legal Thursday, Dec. 6, in Michigan for adults 21 and over.
Getting it will still be difficult — unless you know someone.
That’s because retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t start for at least a year, as the state has to come up with rules and a licensing program for businesses. Licensed medical marijuana businesses are only allowed to sell their medical products to card-carrying patients.
“People are on their own,” said Matt Abel, a cannabis lawyer and founding partner at Cannabis Counsel in Detroit who was one of the authors of the law.
So how does one obtain marijuana Thursday?
The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act — the law that Proposal 1 became once voters approved it — allows individuals to gift up to 2.5 ounces of the smokeable marijuana flower and to gift up to 15 grams of marijuana concentrates to others, said Matt Schweich, deputy director of the Marijuana Policy Project in Washington DC. That’s a considerable amount of marijuana — enough flower to roll 70 gram-sized joints, according to the Michigan State Police.
Gifts of marijuana in Michigan Thursday will be of product that was illegal to possess or grow the day before.
However, questions remain over whether medical patients can gift marijuana to non-patients, or if caregivers can gift marijuana to people who aren’t their patients, Abel said, noting the answers to some of those questions could either be decided through an advisory from the state attorney general or through future court cases.
The state Attorney General’s office is not providing a legal interpretation of the law to the media, and any advice given by the Attorney General’s office to another state agency is protected by attorney-client privilege, said Andrea Bitely, spokeswoman for outgoing Attorney General Bill Schuette.
“I would suggest that people start growing their plants as soon as possible,” Abel said.
Seeds of change?
But that begs another question: where does one obtain or buy seeds, legally?
The new recreational marijuana law does not provide a mechanism to purchase seeds.
Technically, fertile seeds are considered to be “marijuana” in Michigan, said David Harns, spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
In the medical marijuana system, fertile seeds can be sold by licensed medical growers to licensed medical provisioning centers, who in turn can sell them to card-carrying patients or caregivers, Harns said. That does not mean medical provisioning centers can sell fertile seeds to anyone.
There are online seed banks — but if the business is not based in Michigan, any purchase and shipment of marijuana seeds over state lines would be breaking federal law, Abel said.
“This is going to be slow in the roll out,” Abel said. “There are some people who thought all our problems were going to be over tomorrow. It’s not the end, it’s the end of the beginning.”
Patients to pay lower taxes
Patients should keep their medical marijuana cards, Abel said.
That’s because retail sales of recreational marijuana won’t start until after December 2019, when the state starts offering licenses to recreational businesses.
Also, retail taxes will be lower on medical marijuana.
Medical marijuana isn’t subject to the 10 percent excise tax that will be applied to recreational marijuana. A three percent excise tax on medical products will be phased out on or about March 9, 2019, under a provision in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act.