Michigan welcomes mega medical pot growers, but Legislature wants more limits

State lawmakers are looking to impose new regulations on large medical marijuana grow operations.

While the state has given the green light to mega growers of medical marijuana, a bi-partisan group of lawmakers wants to put the brakes on big grow operations.

The medical marijuana law passed by the Legislature last year that regulates and taxes the multi-million dollar industry created three categories of growers: Class A - up to 500 plants, Class B - between 501 and 1,000 plants and Class C - between 1,001-1,500 plants.

In rules established by the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs last month, an individual or business could “stack” grow licenses,  get as many Class C licenses as they wanted and consolidate their operations in one spot.

But the bill introduced last week would limit growers to only two licenses at a single medical marijuana facility and would only allow one grower to operate a facility.

“LARA is trying to make guidelines in conjunction with what they thought the intention of the Legislature was,” said state Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake, the sponsor of the bill. “But with this, you could end up with small group of operators who could have hundreds of licenses that could result in hundreds of thousands of plants in one facility.”

Such an operation could drive out small operators who also want to get involved in the medical marijuana business, with estimated annual sales of $711 million. “And that could end up returning it to the black market if there are just a couple of big grow operations that are monopolizing the market,” he added.

Applications for the five categories of medical marijuana licenses — for grower, processor, secure transporter, testing and dispensaries — will be available from the state on Dec. 15. The Michigan Medical Licensing Board is expected to begin granting licenses early next year.

People who want to get into the medical marijuana business also have to get approval from the communities where they want to operate.

A hearing on the bill – HB 5189 – could happen later this week in the House Judiciary Committee.

No bills were introduced in the Senate, which wasn't in session last week. Other bills introduced in the House of Representatives last week:

HB 5160: Revise the poverty exemption in property taxes. Sponsor: Rep. Wendell Byrd, D-Detroit.

HB 5161: Provide for employment opportunities for veterans in science, technology, engineering and math jobs. Sponsor: Rep. Scott Dianda, D-Calumet.

HB 5162-5163: Restrict the state Department of Health and Human Services to set rules regarding immunizations. Sponsors: Reps. Steven Johnson, R-Wayland, John Reilly, Oakland Township.

HB 5164 and 5173: Provide for a use and sales tax exemptions for the sale of dental prosthesis. Sponsors: Reps. Bronna Kahle, R-Adrian, Julie Alexander, R-Hanover.

HB 5165-5172: A package of bills dealing with the a problem in the state’s Unemployment Insurance Agency when thousands of recipients were wrongly accused of defrauding the system, including: providing for protections for employers regarding identity theft; creating a mechanism for employers and employees to address false claims; revising the amount UIA can recover; requiring a benefit applicant to submit a drivers license or state ID; creating a watchdog position to investigate claims of fraud; and making sure claimants don’t get charged interest on overpayments due to failure by the UIA. Sponsors: Reps. Joseph Graves, R-Linden; Wendell Byrd, D-Detroit, Diana Farrington, R-Utica, Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain, Joseph Bellino, R-Monroe, Phil Phelps, D-Flushing, Martin Howrylak, R-Troy.

HB 5174: Revise the distribution of funds for the amusement tax on entertainment. Sponsor: Rep. Sylvia Santana, D-Detroit.

HB 5175: Revise the qualifications of an eligible merchant who may fill and sell growlers of beer. Sponsor: Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming.

HB 5176-5177: Provide for penalties for intentionally placing and leaving a contraption or device capable of causing injury or death. Sponsor: Rep. Tommy Brann, R-Wyoming.

HB 5178-5179: Restore income tax credit for historic preservation and create income tax credit for child and dependent care. Sponsors: Reps. Ben Frederick, R-Owosso, Patrick Green, D-Warren.

HB 5180: Allow the use of an airbow for hunting season. Sponsor: Rep. Beau LaFave, R-Iron Mountain.

HB 5181: Modify the recovery procedures for abandoned vehicles. Sponsor: Rep. Diana Farrington, R-Utica.

HB 5182: Enhance the registration requirements for group homes and adult foster care facilities. Sponsor: Rep. Henry Yanez, D-Sterling Heights.

HB 5183: Require an independent medical examination of recipients of cash assistance who are exempted from work because of a disability. Sponsor: Rep. Peter Lucido, R-Shelby Township.

HB 5184: Increase the fines for making false reports to law enforcement. Sponsor: Rep. Robert Kosowski, D-Westland.

HB 5185: Prohibit the use of manure or fertilizer on snow-covered soil. Sponsor: Rep. Kevin Hertel, D-St. Clair Shores.

HB 5186-5187: Modify the property tax exemption for disabled veterans and their surviving spouse. Sponsor: Rep. Jeff Noble, R-Plymouth

HB 5188: Provide for an income tax deduction for the costs, care and maintenance of a service animal. Sponsor: Rep.Sherry Gay-Dagnogo, D-Detroit.

HB 5189: Limit the number of medical marijuana grow operations at a single location. Sponsor: Rep. Jim Runestad, R-White Lake.

For more information and to track the bills, go to www.legislature.mi.gov

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