The state of Michigan has a more favorable relationship with marijuana than most. In 2008, it became the 13th state in the U.S. to legalize medicinal cannabis. With the recommendation of a physician, it was possible to possess up to 2.5 ounces for specified ‘qualifying’ conditions.
Bizarrely, the Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative didn’t make any provision for dispensaries; but it did allow MMJ cardholders or their caregivers to grow a maximum of 12 plants at home. The drive towards full legalization began in earnest, and by 2017, supporters of weed submitted a petition with 365,000 signatures requesting recreational legalization.
After certifying that the petition had ample signatures, state legislators decided to allow the public to take it to a vote. On November 6, 2018, 56% of voters said ‘yes’ to Proposal 1, which ensured Michigan became the tenth state to legalize the herb fully. The law went into effect on December 6 of the same year, but the first dispensaries probably won’t open until 2020!
As it is a new law, we’ve decided to look into it to provide you with a full explanation of what it entails. But first, let’s take a quick look at the history of weed in the state.
A Brief History of Marijuana in Michigan
After the federal prohibition of cannabis in the United States in 1937, possession, sale, and use of the substance was classified as a crime. While the vast majority of states refused to rock the boat, Michigan acted a little differently; although it implemented some of the harshest penalties for weed in America in the 1950s.
A 1952 bill decreed that possession of narcotics could result in a prison term of 10 years. A second offense carried a sentence of up to 20 years. If you were convicted of selling, you received a mandatory jail term of 20 years with no parole! In 1956, the Detroit Narcotics Bureau estimated that almost 90% of those arrested for narcotics crimes were black.
John Sinclair was to become a famous poet, and in 1964, he was arrested for sale and possession. As he was college-educated and white, Sinclair received a minor punishment; he would not be so fortunate a few years later. In 1967, a college paper called Michigan Daily urged the state to become the first to legalize the herb as the tide started to turn slightly against the draconian punishments for weed use and possession.
In 1967, Sinclair was arrested for offering two weed cigarettes to a pair of undercover cops. In 1969, he received a ridiculous 10-year prison sentence for the crime. The public was outraged, and in 1971, 15,000 people attended a rally protesting the severity of the sentence. Attendees included John Lennon. Sinclair was freed within three months, and certain cities in Michigan decided to go soft on cannabis.
The Sinclair case convinced the state’s Supreme Court that marijuana was not as dangerous as heroin, despite the implementation of the Controlled Substances Act (CSA) of 1970, which said otherwise. The Court declared Michigan’s marijuana laws ‘unconstitutional’ in 1972. With no new laws in place, cannabis was technically legal for around three weeks in Michigan in March 1972!
The legendary Hash Bash saw hundreds of people smoking weed in public, and none of them were arrested! In 1972, the city of Ann Arbor voted to decriminalize marijuana. Possession of fewer than two ounces was classified as a ‘civil infraction,’ and you received a fine of $5. The city maintained its stance until full legalization in 2018. Just before the new law was passed, you were only fined $25 if caught in possession of a small amount of marijuana.
Not every town and city in Michigan was as open-minded, although East Lansing followed Ann Arbor’s lead soon after. Sinclair and his wife tried to build on the momentum but were unable to get enough signatures on a petition to submit to the state legislature. It was a blow that set marijuana back decades in Michigan, but it was finally made right; first in 2008, and then in 2018.
What Does the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act Say?
Also, known as the RMLA, the Act contains several provisions. Here are the most crucial.
Usage & Possession
Any adult aged 21+ is allowed to use and possess marijuana in the state of Michigan. You are allowed to travel with up to 15 grams of concentrate or 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower. However, you are NOT allowed to do so in a correctional institution, a school bus, or on any school property.
Incredibly, Michigan residents are also allowed to possess up to 10 ounces in their home. However, you MUST lock up anything more than the 2.5-ounce possession limit. This doesn’t mean you need to invest in a safe! A locked room, cabinet, or even a briefcase are all acceptable. By the way, violation of the law will cost you a $100 fine.
The Act allows each household to grow up to 12 marijuana plants. It gets better: If you grow weed at home, the possession limits in your home don’t apply. Legally, the plants you grow must not be easily visible from public areas. This is mainly an issue if you grow outdoors. Also, if you are renting your property, you need landlord approval to cultivate weed.
The BIG problem with the Act at present is the lack of dispensaries. By ‘lack of,’ we mean there are no dispensaries that legally sell recreational marijuana in Michigan at the time of writing. The Act has decreed that you will be able to apply for a dispensary license by December 6, 2019, at the latest. In reality, we don’t expect a dispensary to open in Michigan until the first quarter of 2020.
The Act has made a provision for ‘gifting’ up to 15 grams of concentrate or 2.5 ounces of cannabis flower. In other words, a buddy who grows it can give you one of those amounts for free if you are aged 21+. Already, clever individuals are selling items such as t-shirts and chocolate for suspiciously high prices; your purchase comes with a marijuana ‘gift’.
However, we urge readers to avoid going down that path. A ‘gift’ is only legal if you receive no cash. Also, the sale of physical goods is supposed to involve a sales tax. Therefore, you are actually breaking two laws. You can get around the sales tax issue by offering a service such as a consultation instead of an item when giving the ‘gift.’
Until the recreational stores open in 2020, your best option is to apply for a medical marijuana card.
It is against the law to consume marijuana in a public space. If you are caught doing so, you will be charged with a civil infraction. The tricky issue here is determining what a ‘public space’ is. For example, you could argue that public space is ‘anywhere a member of the public can see you.’ Therefore, you could technically break the law by smoking weed on your front lawn!
However, you can defend yourself by pointing out that it is your property, which means that it isn’t a ‘public place’ even if it is in public view. If you are going to use weed in Michigan, it is best to do so in your home, that of a friend, or a private area. In Alaska, there are ‘consumption lounges’ attached to dispensaries, which allow patrons to use their new purchase. Perhaps Michigan will follow suit?
- It is worth noting that the Act enables municipalities to outlaw or limit the number of marijuana dispensaries within its boundaries; this is something to keep an eye on in 2020.
- You have the option of applying for a ‘microbusiness’ license, which allows you to grow up to 150 plants and sell them directly to consumers.
- There is an excise tax of 10% on the sale of recreational marijuana in Michigan.
- It remains against the law to drive under the influence of cannabis. If caught, you could be charged with DUI. Consuming marijuana in a vehicle while you are NOT driving is a civil infraction. Legally, there is no provision as to whether you can store the herb in your car. Play it safe and leave it at home, or put it in the trunk.
- As Michigan is an ‘at-will’ employment state, you can still be refused employment or fired for marijuana use.
- Above all else, cannabis remains a Schedule I substance according to the CSA. We don’t recommend transporting ANY amount of marijuana across state lines.
Michigan was once among the worst states for marijuana lovers. Events of the late 1960s transformed matters, and it became home to some of the most liberal cannabis laws in the United States as cities such as Ann Arbor adopted a common-sense approach.
When medical marijuana became legal in 2008, momentum grew, and it was finally fully legalized in 2018. There are still teething problems, but hopefully, by mid-2020, Michigan residents will find purchasing weed a quick and easy process.