Michigan lawmakers want to loosen restrictions on who is able to possess a medical marijuana business license to now include the spouses of government employees.
The current rules, created within the 2016 Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, forbid the spouse of any government employee or elected official from being issued a medical marijuana business license by the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency.
“We don’t comment on pending legislation,” Marijuana Regulatory Agency spokesman David Harns said when posed questions about the bill.
House Bill 5700, which passed the House, 229-100, on June 3, is sponsored by state Rep. Julie Alexander, R-Hanover.
Alexander said she was prompted to work on the legislation after hearing from a 10-year Michigan Department of Health and Human Services caseworker named Ashley, who lives in Jackson County.
Ashley — her last name wasn’t disclosed — married a man who had “a couple” medical marijuana business licenses, one for a dispensary and the other for a processing facility.
“He was updating some paperwork and was asked about his marital status and honestly answered that he was now married and she was a state employee,” Alexander said. “When they heard from the (Marijuana Regulatory Agency) was that they either needed to divorce or she needed to quit her job.
” … She said that this is happening to a lot of people.”
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency said there have been no revocations or license denials on these grounds.
An original version of the bill would have also allowed spouses of elected officials to possess a medical marijuana business license, but the clause was removed.
Robin Schneider, director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, which represents nearly 200 licensed marijuana businesses, said her group isn’t opposed to the change, so long as conflicts of interest aren’t created.
License applicants would still be required to disclose whether their spouse is a government employee, but it wouldn’t disqualify the applicant unless the Marijuana Regulatory Agency believed the relationship presented a conflict.
While questioning Alexander about the legislation during a House Judiciary Committee session on May 13, committee vice-chair David LaGrand, D-Grand Rapids, said he was “struck” by the “very broad” morals portion of the law. The law’s framework was based, in part, on strict guidelines within the Michigan Gaming Control and Revenue Act, which regulates casinos.
LaGrand asked Alexander if she was considering “clawing backward” some of the restrictions based on prior criminal records, which he said seem “overly broad” and inconsequential as to whether the license holder can “safely” provide legal marijuana.
The medical marijuana licensing law bars anyone with a controlled substance-related felony conviction within the last 10 years or anyone with a controlled substance, theft or fraud-related misdemeanor within the last five years from possessing a license.
The medical marijuana licensing law is contradictory to some efforts by the state in regard to the recreational marijuana industry, which includes a social equity program intended to assist anyone who’s been previously convicted of a marijuana-related crime.
Alexander said she hasn’t considered any other changes to the law.
The bill now goes before the Senate, where it would need to pass and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.
— Gus Burns is the marijuana beat reporter for MLive. Contact him with questions, tips or comments at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter, @GusBurns.