This week saw Michigan’s Legislature actively involved in marijuana-related legislation.
As we reported Wednesday, twenty-four members of Michigan’s House of Representatives signed onto newly introduced House Bill 5014, a bill that would:
- “Grandfather” currently operating dispensaries and other unlicensed medical marijuana businesses;
- Excuse those businesses from the requirement that their local government opt-in to the new licensing framework; and
- Mandate that the State’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board process applications for state operating licenses by August of 2018 (for applications filed by February 15).
On Thursday, two State Senators introduced companion Senate Bills 599 and 600, bills that mirror House Bill 5014. The Republican sponsor, Sen. Rick Jones, was the Senate champion of Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. Notably, though, while the MMFLA went through the Senate Judiciary Committee, chaired by Sen. Jones, these two new bills that would amend the MMFLA were instead referred to the Senate Health Policy Committee.
Apart from the introduction of bills to amend the MMFLA, the Legislature also took action on bills that would restrict billboard advertising and repeal requirements governing the transportation of medical marihuana in vehicles.
The Senate Judiciary Committee advanced Senate Bill 463, which would prohibit marijuana-related advertising on billboards. The bill was reported to the floor on a 3-2 vote, with opposition centering on First Amendment concerns. Proponents of the bill responded to those issues by arguing that the State already prohibits tobacco advertising on billboards, and has not faced a legal challenge over that law. What those proponents apparently fail to recognize, however, is that the tobacco advertising restrictions are a result of the Master Settlement Agreement of 1990’s State Attorneys General lawsuits against the tobacco companies—and those companies agreed to the restrictions.
Over on the House side of Michigan’s Legislature, the House Law and Justice Committee voted 10-1 to send House Bill 4606 to the floor. This bill would repeal provisions of the Michigan Penal Code that purport to criminalize the transport of medical marihuana in a vehicle other than in an enclosed case inaccessible to the driver. That law has been the source of both controversy and, in some cases, successful legal challenge, because it regulates activity that is otherwise governed by the State’s voter-initiated Medical Marihuana Act. It does so through a separate statute, instead of via an amendment to the MMMA. Not only is this a constitutional vulnerability, but it also means that Michigan medical marihuana patients cannot simply read the MMMA and understand the rules they must follow.