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A WGVU initiative in partnership with the W.K. Kellogg Foundation using on-air programs and community events to explore issues of inclusion and equity.

Marijuana in Michigan: The legal timeline

Medical marijuana shop in Denver.
O'dea via Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 3.0

Marijuana in Michigan is poised to be a big story for 2018. But what its legalization means to different communities is a complex question. 

Let’s start with the legal story. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed back in 2008. But who could sell, grow, or transport, it was not clearly outlined. Bob Hendricks is a legal expert with Wrigley, Hoffman and Hendricks, a firm with an established medical marijuana business practice. Hendricks says after the act passed, dispensaries started popping up everywhere.

“But law enforcement didn’t like that. They didn’t read the laws allowing that and frankly the law didn’t allow that. And so there were lots of fights between the drug enforcement forces and advocates for patient access about the scope of the law.”

Several of these cases made it to the Michigan Supreme Court.

“And every time the courts got a crack at it, they construed it narrowly.”

This created problems for every end of the “legal” supply line. So the legislature finally adopted the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, effective in 2016. Just last month the applications for facilities became available.

“The purpose of the Facilities act was really to create a broad commercial capability to provide medical marijuana testing, transportation, retail sales, etc., to patients in the state of Michigan.”

On a parallel track the Marijuana Policy Project and other advocacy groups gathered 350,000 signatures last year, to get adult recreational marijuana on the state ballot this November.

“Somewhere in the high fifty percent numbers to the high sixty percent numbers of likely voters in the State of Michigan support that ballot initiative and so we will likely see that ballot initiative go before voters and we will probably see them approve it.”

So, that’s the timeline to date. Next in this Mutually Inclusive series we’ll talk to advocates on both sides, but also talk about effects this could have for people incarcerated for possession or distribution as well as the business opportunities in disinvested communities. So, stay tuned. 

Mariano Avila is WGVU's inclusion reporter. He has made a career of bringing voices from the margins to those who need to hear them. Over the course of his career, Mariano has written for major papers in English and Spanish, published in magazines, worked in broadcast, and produced short films, commercials, and nonprofit campaigns. He also briefly served at a foreign consulate, organized for international human rights efforts and has done considerable work connecting marginalized people to religious, educational, and nonprofit institutions through the power of story.
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