What Is It
The 2008 Michigan elections included the ballot question regarding the legalization of medical marijuana (spelled ‘marihuana’ in the Act). The measure passed with a comfortable margin and now has been enacted into law. Licenses for both users (known as patients) and growers (known as caregivers) are being issued at a pace that out-stripped the original projection for demand. Because of the backlog, patients who have submitted a form which has not been rejected after three weeks are, de facto, provisionally licensed to possess up to 2.5 oz. of marijuana. Likewise, caregivers who submit their form are given the same provisional permit to go forward and begin to cultivate plants for their patients.
The program is administered by Michigan’s Department of Community Health. This agency distributes identification cards to caregivers and patients. Caregivers are individuals who grow, cultivate and prepare the marijuana for consumption. Patients may legally obtain and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Caregivers may cultivate 12 plants per patient under their care. Caregivers may then process and distribute marijuana to their patients and charge a processing fee for the service and goods.
The Department of Community Health has the application forms on-line http://www.michigan.gov/mdch/0,1607,7-132-27417_51869—,00.html Here you can obtain specific answers to your questions and concerns, application forms, access to the formal regulations and the Department’s official position on a number of issues.
What is Not Covered
What has not been answered are all the practical questions that have arisen since the law has been enacted. There exists limited direction for patients and caregivers on practical aspects of distribution, payment, relation to other laws, taxes and local regulation, just to name a few concerns.
Can you make a business of it? Perhaps. The framers of the statute wanted to limit commercial activity to avoid a “California” situation. California has had legal medical marijuana for some time and has seen a huge underground industry grow from it. Municipalities have a mixed bag of regulations and ordinances designed to discourage, encourage, confound but usually just confuse the public.
The Reality of the Business Side
Pioneers rarely enjoy the fruits of their efforts. The first persons into any situation usually pay a heavy price for ignorance, bad planning or circumstances beyond their control. Currently, businesses with higher public visability are in support industries (i.e. lighting, grow systems, air purifiers, etc). Nothing inherently illegal about their activity so they generally only have the normal market risks of any business. There are only a few retail ventures dealing with licensed marijuana known at this time.
The risks of the medical marijuana business are obvious: distribution and possession are still State and Federal crimes (though not currently a high priority for law enforcement), local police treatment varies widely and the public perception has not been tested. You could face losing your investment and perhaps a measure of your freedom depending upon a number of factors beyond your control. If you have no business experience, then you are in for some expensive realities regarding taxes, local and state regulations and licensing. Then there are issues of security, pricing, inventory and distribution.
How A Lawyer Can Help
How can a lawyer help in the process? The lawyer you hire should be able to explain the Act to you along with the current State and Federal laws regarding criminal possession and distribution. Your lawyer should also be sophisticated enough to understand basic business concepts and transactions such as sales contracts, leases, insurance requirements, business planning and accounting.
In short, your lawyer should lower your risk. After all, any entreprenurial venture will have some risk. If you plan carefully, think through your operation carefully and consider the worst case scenarios, you’ll find there is is plenty of opportunity if you are willing to work hard and seek solid guidance. The time and cost of competent counsel will give you a better chance of success and the opportunity to minimize any risk that you anticipate.
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