Cannabis caregivers and some large commercial marijuana producers in Michigan are at odds in a debate over restricting the number of plants grown and distributed by individual caregivers. Several media reports have indicated that commercial producers are pushing state legislators to require more regulation and licensing for caregivers under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. (“MMMA).
Current Caregiver Guidelines
Under the MMMA, anyone can be a caregiver who is 21 or older with no drug or violent felonies of any kind, and no non-violent felonies over the last 10 years. Caregivers are allowed to supply marijuana to up to five “qualifying patients” (not including themselves, if they are also a patient). Under Section 4 of the MMMA, caregivers may possess up to 2.5 ounces of “usable marijuana” and up to “12 marijuana plants” per patient. Accordingly, the MMMA allows for 72 plants and 15 ounces of usable marijuana total, if the caregiver is also a patient.
The Debate Over Licensing and Oversight
The debate over licensing and regulation of the caregiver market involves certain large producers of marijuana and the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (“MCMA”), on the one side, who are reportedly pushing for more stringent oversight. The other includes caregivers who argue that the legislative push is meant to limit competition by driving more sales to licensed marijuana shops.
Large producers argue that caregivers should be forced to adhere to testing standards to maintain safety and create consumer confidence in product quality. Without these caregiver standards in place, they argue that caregiver sales increase public health risks and lead to more black-market sales.
The MCMA funded a study which found that approximately 70 percent of the $3.2 billion in statewide marijuana sales came from the black market.
According to MCMA Executive Director Stephen Linder, “While there have been many successes in Michigan’s regulated cannabis industry, there are major storm clouds on the horizon. The [study] shows large quantities of untested, illicit cannabis continue flooding the market. This poses a significant threat to patient and consumer safety.”
While media reports do not indicate the specific legislation changes that advocates of reform are pushing for, they are likely focused on imposing stricter caregiver grow limits and product tracking and testing.
Caregiver and patient advocates are fighting back with both grassroots and social-media campaigns to combat the perceived threats to caregiver rights.
We will continue to keep you apprised of further developments in this debate. In the meantime, if you have any questions or require assistance, please contact Paul C. Mallon, Jr., Shareholder and Chair of Fraser Trebilcock’s cannabis law practice.