In November 2018, Michigan will decide whether or not to make marijuana (or “marihuana”, as Michigan state also likes to call it) legal for recreational use. The initiative for the ballot comes from the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, with the ballot being opposed by the committee, Keep Pot out of Neighborhoods and Schools. Michigan is a Republican-led Legislature, and Michigan as a state seems very “split down the middle” on this issue.
There are a lot of interesting stats with regards to marijuana use in Michigan. Like many places in the United States and the world, cannabis is the number 1 illicit “drug” of choice in Michigan, and it is apparently getting more and more popular there (or people are just more honest and open about their use nowadays). To break some of the stats given down:
- More than 2 percent of Michigan residents have a medical marijuana card, according to the most recent state data.
- That data shows there are 218,556 patients with a medical marijuana card as of Sept. 30, 2016, plus 38,057 caretakers with a card so they can obtain marijuana for a designated patient.
- The number of patient cardholders has increased 76 percent since 2012, the data shows.
- Around 9.3% of all 2015 arrests in Michigan involved marijuana – it was 7% in 2008
What are the Laws on Marijuana in Michigan at the Moment?
Michigan is a very tough state when it comes to marijuana enforcement. Though there is a medical marijuana programme in Michigan, punishment for recreational use is quite harsh. There are also “zoning” laws, meaning that using marijuana in certain areas of the city carries more severe punishment than in others. To give the gist of these laws
- Possession of any amount of marijuana is a misdemeanour, with incarceration of up to 1 year and a $2,000 fine. Possessing marijuana in a park may be considered a felony, with up to 2 years in prison and a $2,000 fine.
- Use of marijuana is considered a misdemeanour, and can bring with it a 90-day sentence and a $100 fine.
- Sale of paraphernalia can bring with it a misdemeanour charge, 90 days incarceration and a $5,000 fine.
- Any conviction will result in a 6-month driver’s license suspension.
- Sale without remuneration is a misdemeanour, with up to 1 year in prison and a $1,000 fine.
- Sale of any amount less than 5 kg is considered a felony, with up to 4 years in prison and a $20,000 fine.
- There is a steep increase in sentencing and fines for sales on any amount over 5 kg, with up to 7 years and a $500,000 fine for any amount of marijuana weighing between 5 and 45 kg!
- For marijuana sales of 45 kg or above, there’s 15 years in prison and a $10,000,000 fine!
- Cultivation brings with it similarly harsh felony charges as sales: 4 years and a $20,000 fine for less than 20 plants; 7 years and a $500,000 fine for 20 – 199 plants; and 15 years and a $10,000,000 fine for 200 plants or more.
- Hash and concentrates bring with it the same penalties for flower marijuana
So, as you can imagine, it is very easy to get multiple life sentences for marijuana in Michigan if the courts and law enforcement decide to “stack up” the offences.
Conditions for Medical Marijuana in Michigan
Michigan does allow for cannabis use for medical purposes. Much like its sentencing structure, Michigan likes to use the old-school spelling “marihuana” interchangeably with “marijuana”. Hence the name “Michigan Medical Marihuana Program” (MMMP). Governor Rick Snyder signed a package of legislation – HB 4209, H 4210, HB 4827, SB 141 and SB 1014 – into law on December 20, 2016, regulating the sale of marijuana and cannabis-infused products by licensed dispensaries. Qualifying conditions include:
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), aka Lou Gehrig’s disease
- Cachexia or wasting syndrome
- Chronic pain
- Crohn’s disease
- Hepatitis C
- Nail patella
- Nausea, arising from chemotherapy or other qualifying condition
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
- Seizures, arising from conditions such as epilepsy
- Severe and persistent muscle spasms, arising from conditions like multiple sclerosis (MS) or Parkinson’s disease (PD)
Patients may possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana on their persons, and can cultivate up to 12 plants indoors or in an enclosed, stable facility outdoors that is not visible to the unaided eye by anyone at ground level or from a permanent structure. Outdoor structures must be enclosed by a chain-link fence, wooden slats or a similar material preventing access by the general public.
To register for the MMMP, patients must fill out an application form and provide proof of residence (e.g. utility bill, rental/mortgage agreement), Michigan state-issued photo identity (e.g. driver’s license, passport) and a physician’s recommendation. Patients must be at least 18 years of age. Patients may have one primary caregiver, who is aged 21 or over and never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs, or convicted of a felony over the last 10 years, or has been ever been convicted of any violent crime. Caregivers can assist up to 5 patients. The patient fee is $60, caregiver fee $25.
There are reciprocity laws in place in Michigan, but the other state, district, territory, commonwealth or insular possession must offer Michigan reciprocity as well! As far as which precise states have reciprocity, this can be difficult to tell, as Michigan is quite strict with its laws. As it stands, it may mean that California, Nevada and Maine have reciprocity with Michigan, but it is perhaps best to call up the dispensaries and asking them directly.
Will Recreational Marijuana Ever Be Legal in Michigan?
If you’re looking at the sentencing and fine structures, you’d be forgiven for thinking “not any time soon”. Yet, there are many who think that Michigan may become the next state to legalize marijuana for recreational use, as activists, investors and even tobacco dealers donate to the campaign to legalize cannabis in Michigan. There is currently a race to get the 252,523 valid signatures on the petition to put the marijuana question on the ballot within the 180-day time limit. As of July 11 2017 – 6 weeks after the petition started – there were just over 100,000 signatures.
For a state like Michigan to have recreational marijuana legalized would be quite a huge step. Michigan’s Legislature is, as noted in the first paragraph, heavily Republican. The state’s Governors and Lieutenant Governor are Rick Snyder and Brian Calley, both Republicans, and 9 out of 14 of the U.S. House delegates are Republicans. However, Michigan’s U.S. senators are Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters – both fairly moderate-but-strong Democrats.
Looking at Michigan’s historical voting record is very interesting. Though Michigan was a “Democrat state” between 1992 and 2012, in 2016 it swung to Republican by the narrowest of margins – the Democrats polled 47.3% of the votes, Republicans 47.5%. Since 1932, Michiganders have voted for the Republicans and Democrats in relatively equal numbers, with Democrats winning 12 of the 22 elections. This is clearly a tale of two states, and it could be said that Michigan is one of the “key” states in seeing how a U.S. presidential election would pan out in the rest of the country.
The same could easily be said of marijuana laws. Should Michigan decide to legalize cannabis for recreational use, expect to see the tide turning elsewhere. People expect states like California and Oregon to legalize recreational marijuana use – they’re pretty much known worldwide as being very “green-friendly” states for some time now, and there’s a reason why Northern California is known as the “emerald triangle” (i.e. it’s because it’s the largest cannabis-producing region in the U.S., for those who don’t know).
Getting marijuana legalized for recreational use in Michigan would be a huge step, and activists and other pro-marijuana bill supporters know this. Michigan legalizing marijuana for recreational purposes would send a pretty big message to the White House, as it’s a swing state in more than just a political sense.
Of course, we here at Doctor Frank feel that the term “recreational use” when it comes to marijuana to be a bit of a misnomer. All marijuana use is medical and can help with health & wellness, as whether or not you’re using marijuana for its euphoric effects, you are still getting the benefit of all the other cannabinoids and terpenoids. Whether this idea will inform our understanding of marijuana and how to legislate it is up for debate, but it looks unlikely to seep into the national consciousness any time soon.
For now, it’s simply the fight to get marijuana legalized for whatever purposes and stop people getting thrown into jail for it. Though concessions may need to be made on the wording and legislation passed, it seems that this is the main thing the pro-marijuana lobby want to happen. However, we dream that, one day, all marijuana use will be considered “medical”, and that no one will have to pay boatloads of taxes to get its benefits!