Bill seeks to eliminate stacking portion of MMFLA program; hearing in House with public comment is Tuesday
by Rick Thompson/October 29, 2017
LANSING- Sparks are expected to fly during Tuesday’s meeting of the Michigan House Judiciary Committee, where a new bill to eliminate medical marijuana cultivation monopolies will have a first hearing.
HB 5189 represents the latest battleground for a classic confrontation: people who promote small business and the spreading of wealth versus those who want to aggregate economic benefit in the hands of those who already have advantage.
HB5189 HEARING: Tuesday, October 31, 2017 at 12:00 PM in Room 326, House Office Building, Lansing, MI
The legislature passed the Medical Marihuana (sic) Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) in 2016, and the program it created is in the process of being rolled out. It regulates five different business types and will license marijuana cultivation facilities at the 500, 1000 and 1,500-plant quantities. Each Class C-type 1,500 cannabis plant cultivation license would require a $500,000 capitalization requirement.
Earlier this year the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, along with their subordinate department the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation, issued an advisory declaring the Department would allow medical marijuana license ‘stacking’ for Class C cultivation licenses.
‘Stacking’ is defined as allowing a single business entity the ability to secure multiple medical marijuana cultivation licenses at the same physical location, each license allowing 1,500 plants, which would effectively allow wealthy interests to secure licenses for cannabis gardens which might exceed 10,000 plants on a single parcel of land.
At a half-million dollars of demonstrable capitalization required for each Class C license, any business team which qualifies for a stacking program would by necessity be a big-money group. Conversely, each 1,500-plant license could be issued instead as three licenses at the 500-plant level, advocates argued, and the idea of allowing one company to horde opportunity through stacking of Class C licenses is a placation to Lansing power interests.
This LARA decision angered many patients, caregivers, current businesspersons and representatives of prospective businesses, anger expressed at the MMFLA License Board meeting held on Oct. 17. Giving a single business entity the power to control huge percentages of the commercial marijuana market amounts to a marijuana monopoly, according to the citizen speakers at the Board meeting, and minimizes small business participation in the new medical marijuana commercial cultivation space.
A team of legislators have drafted HB 5189 to halt the process of ‘stacking.’ The bill’s primary sponsor is the Chairman of the Committee, Rep. Jim Runestad. Significant resistance to the bill’s passage is expected by groups like the Michigan Responsibility Council, who have opposed other 2017 bills and efforts to liberalize marijuana laws. Their representatives have delivered testimony on a different bill which was identifieded by Senator Jones as highly prejudicial toward business interests.
The change proposed in HB 5189 is to add the boldfaced language to Section 501 of MCL 333.27501:
(7) A grower license does not authorize the grower to DO ANY OF THE FOLLOWING:
(A) OPERATE in an area unless the area is zoned for industrial or agricultural uses or is unzoned and otherwise meets the requirements established in section 205(1).
(B) OPERATE AT A MARIHUANA FACILITY AT WHICH ANOTHER GROWER IS LICENSED TO OPERATE.
(C) HOLD 2 OR MORE GROWER LICENSES AT A SINGLE MARIHUANA FACILITY.
Other co-signers on the House bill are:
The conflict between Michigan’s legislature and the Department empowered to create the program the lawmakers created is due in part to the process used by LARA to make restrictions for the new MMFLA program. Rules and advisories are being issued by LARA leadership without public hearings, without the citizen protections of the Open Meetings Act and in the presence of lobbyists representing big industry. A recent series of articles by MLive and other independent reporting have detailed the questionable relationship between industry advisers and LARA decision makers.