“. . . all politics is local . . .”
US Representative Tip O’Neil (1935)
Michigan’s Senate and House of Representatives recently adopted a trio of bills related to medical marijuana. This legislation has been sent to Governor Snyder and may well have been signed by the time this article is published. One of the bills is HB 4209, the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act (“MMFLA”). It establishes a comprehensive licensing system for medical marijuana growers, processors, retail dispensaries, transporters, and testing labs, and greatly expands the scope of legal commercial marijuana activity.
Licenses with the MMFLA
The MMFLA sets out requirements for and conditions to the issuance of licenses to operate. Those requirements and conditions are very detailed. When the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (“Board”) is established under the MMFLA, there will probably be more. Those interested in applying for a license (which cannot occur for approximately 15 months) are well advised to heed section 402 of the MMFLA.
Even if a potential applicant can pass all of the requirements and meet all the conditions established under the MMFLA and by the Board, the issuance of any license will still depend on another independent element — the approval of the municipality where the applicant desires to locate their marijuana facility. The MMFLA defines a municipality as a city, township or village, which encompasses all locations in the state. Therefore, no matter where an applicant desires to locate their marijuana facility, it will be in a “municipality” and require its approval.
The MMFLA allows a municipality to establish an ordinance authorizing one or more types of marijuana facilities within its boundaries, and may limit the number of each type allowed. Conversely, a municipality may also decide that it desires to not allow any marijuana facilities of any type within its jurisdiction. There is no requirement that any facilities be allowed, nor any limit on the number that may be authorized. Moreover, these ordinances may be amended from time to time to change the facility authorizations, subject to due process principles. The ordinances may establish annual fees up to $5,000 per facility. Those municipalities which allow facilities in their jurisdictions will share in the tax revenues generated by a 3% retail medical marijuana sales tax.
The veto power of municipalities under the MMFLA is where local politics becomes critical. Anyone who desires to locate any type of marijuana facility allowed under the act will need the city, village or township in which they want to locate to agree to the type of facility proposed, and in sufficient numbers to cover the applicant. Without this agreement, no one in Lansing will be able to help.
What should a potential future license applicant do? First, remember that license applications under MMFLA will not be allowed to be filed until roughly 15 months from now. So there’s time to work on municipal approval. Second, future applicants should begin researching their local officials to determine how medical marijuana facilities may be regarded. They may wish to speak with attorneys or lobbyists who are familiar with the local political scene, to determine the lay of the land. Third, it’s never too late to become a more active member of the community. Finally, begin thinking about and outlining the economic benefits that can be expected to flow from the facility. Between the annual fees, the shared tax revenues, and the potential job creation and property tax payments, applicants want to be able to show marijuana facilities as revenue enhancers. Politics is local, and the locals are always looking for ways to enhance their communities and improve their bottom line.