As you may have heard, Governor Rick Snyder recently signed several pieces of legislation that are poised to shake up medical marijuana in Michigan. As part of our continuing blog series, Glaza Law will delve into the finer points of the new rules to give patients, caregivers, and cannabis entrepreneurs the information they need. Throughout this blog series you can use the provided links to delve deeper into some of the referenced rules and relevant case law.
The new measures address soon-to-be-established medical marijuana facilities, mandate a state-run marijuana tracking system, and enact important changes to the already existing Medical Marihuana Act (MMA). As a side note, the MMA uses the term ‘marihuana’ instead of ‘marijuana’ (personally I prefer the term cannabis over either spelling), but I will strive to use the term marijuana throughout this blog series when not quoting the MMA directly.
The new laws will mean big changes to the medical marijuana landscape in Michigan, but many of the changes will not take effect until the end of 2017. However, effective December 20th of this year, there are new definitions and amendments to the MMA that will affect marijuana-infused products as well as marijuana extracts and extraction methods. This blog will discuss marihuana-infused products; stayed tuned to Glaza Law to learn about the other changes coming in December 2016.
The long overdue creation of a definition for “marihuana-infused products” (MIPs) is sure to elicit a sigh of relief from thousands of patients and caregivers. Many patients prefer to get their medicine by ingesting marijuana by some means other than smoking, and in some cases smoking can actually exacerbate the patient’s condition. But since the inception of the MMA, patients and caregivers have struggled (sometimes with grave legal consequences) with the treatment under the law of edibles, lotions, and tinctures (alcohol extractions of marijuana). Unfortunately the MMA in its prior form did not permit such use, so marijuana-infused products remained illegal, and law enforcement’s treatment of MIPs was often inconsistent and harsh.
The new amendment defines an MIP as “a topical formulation, tincture, beverage, edible substance, or similar product containing any usable marihuana that is intended for human consumption in a manner other than smoke inhalation.” Patients are now allowed to make and possess their own MIPs, and caregivers are allowed to make MIPs for their own patients (meaning only the patients connected to the caregiver through the Michigan registry). Patients may not transfer MIPs to any other patients, and caregivers are allowed to transfer MIPs to only their own patients. It should be noted that there is a rule allowing patients and caregivers to buy and sell MIPs in transactions with a marijuana “provisioning center” (aka: dispensary), but the law limits such transfers to provisioning centers licensed by the state. Because such licensing will not begin until December 2017 at the earliest, current dispensaries are still prohibited from buying and selling MIPs.
Because MIPs are new to the MMA, the definition of “medical use of marihuana”  has been extended to include the use of MIPs, and a new definition for “usable marijuana equivalent” and an equivalency formula have been created to define how MIPs will affect the current weight restrictions for usable marijuana possession under the§4 immunity provision. The weight limit per patient has remained unchanged at 2.5 ounces of usable marijuana per patient; except that limit now includes any combination of usable marijuana and usable marijuana equivalents. Under the new usable marijuana equivalency formula, 1 ounce of usable marihuana is equal to any of the following: 16 ounces of an MIP in solid form, 7 grams of an MIP in gaseous form, or 36 fluid ounces of an MIP in liquid form. It is notable to point out here that neither the equivalency formula nor the other changes to the MMA limit the potency of an MIP. This creates an incentive to make ultra-potent edibles to pack in as much usable marijuana as possible per ounce of MIP. At a recent seminar hosted by the Marijuana Law Section of the Michigan State Bar (which was attended by cannabis lawyers, advocates, and entrepreneurs as well as Michigan legislators) I voiced this concern to Mike Callton (Michigan House of Representatives, 87th District) and Sandra McCormack (from Senator Rick Jones’s Office, 24th District); they confirmed that potency limitations will be addressed when the regulations pertaining to the new laws are released in 2017.
Last note on MIPs, when transporting them in your car there are special steps that need to be followed. Patients need to make sure that the MIP is in a sealed package located in the trunk (or “not…readily accessible” if the vehicle does not have a trunk) with a label that lists the weight of the MIP in ounces, the name of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, and the name of the person from whom the MIP was received as well as the date on which it was received. Caregivers transporting MIPs also need to make sure MIPs are in a sealed package located in the trunk or “not…readily accessible” and must maintain a “transportation manifest” that states the weight of each MIP in ounces, the name and address of the manufacturer, the date of manufacture, the destination name and address, the date and time of departure, the estimated date and time of arrival, the name and address of the person from whom the MIP was received, and the date the MIP was received. Violations of these requirements will result in a civil fine of not more than $250.
The changes described above are a step in the right direction for medical marijuana law in Michigan, but we still have a long way to go and some questions remain unanswered. One aspect of the new rules that may have a huge impact on those facing potential legal trouble is that the new law amending the MMA is curative and retroactive in nature; this means that the new rules and definitions could be applied to illegal conduct that occurred in the past. Determining whether retroactive application of these rules can help your case depends on your particular circumstances, so contact Glaza Law today to find out how we can help.