Things to know about using marijuana legally in Michigan

Guest editorial

Now that marijuana is legal in Michigan both for medical and recreational use, the Dickinson-Iron District Health Department has released some information for those perhaps considering it.

Michigan on Nov. 6, 2018, became the first state in the Midwest to legalize recreational marijuana. This law went into effect on Dec. 6, 2018, and is officially called the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Program, or MMMP, is a state registry program that administers the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act as approved by Michigan voters on Nov. 4, 2008. MMMP is a division within the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, is separate from the Medical Marijuana Facilities and Adult-Use Establishment Licensing Division within MRA, and is governed by a different law. Only a medical doctor or doctor of osteopathic medicine and surgery who has a current license to practice in the state of Michigan can complete and sign the physician certification for a qualifying patient. This is NOT a prescription; many confuse it as such.

So, you may be thinking, “Why bother getting a Medical Marijuana Card if I can now purchase it legally without one?” With the card, it’s treated like “medicine.” A doctor is stating you have a medical condition in which medical marijuana may help but only certain medical conditions are eligible. The National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine has discovered beneficial uses for marijuana in treating or alleviating the pain, nausea, and other symptoms associated with a variety of debilitating medical conditions. The other difference is the taxes people pay and the amount. The taxes are much higher with recreational marijuana. The Medical Marijuana Card may provide some added protection and benefits but that would be up to the person who possesses one to seek out legal counsel for more specific details on the matter.

Regardless, if you are using for medicinal reasons or recreationally, you need to understand what’s at stake if you don’t follow certain rules. State law —

— Allows a person 21 years of age or older to possess, use or consume, purchase, transport or process not more than 2.5 ounces of marijuana; of that amount, not more than 15 grams may be marijuana concentrate.

— Allows a person 21 and older to possess, store and process not more than 10 ounces of marijuana and any marijuana produced by marijuana plants cultivated on the premises and cultivate not more than 12 marijuana plants for personal use.

— Allows a person to give away or otherwise transfer without remuneration up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana, except that not more than 15 grams of marijuana may be in the form of a marijuana concentrate, to a person 21 years of age or older, as long as the transfer is not advertised or promoted to the public.

There are also other stipulations in place and prohibitions for those who want to use it recreationally. For more specific information, go to www.legislature.mi.gov, conduct a “Basic MCL Search” and type in “Marihuana Act.” You will likely need legal counsel to help you interpret the language.

Another area to address is marihuana and driving. One can absolutely not operate, navigate or be in physical control of any motor vehicle, aircraft, snowmobile, off-road vehicle or motorboat while under the influence of marijuana. This applies even to those who have the Medical Marijuana Card; you are not exempt or excused from the penalties from driving under the influence, even though you have a “medical reason for using.” Some other points —

— As a driver, you can have on you and transfer up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana; not more than 15 grams may be in the form of a concentrate.

— Drivers cannot consume marijuana while operating ANY type of motor vehicle.

— Drivers and/or their passengers are prohibited from smoking marijuana within the passenger area of a vehicle.

— Drivers and passengers cannot transport marijuana into Canada.

Police officers will be looking for impairment based on driving, personal observations of the driver and how a driver performs on standardized and/or non-standardized field sobriety tests. Based on these three stages of an investigation, a police officer may request a chemical test. If a driver refuses to submit to a chemical test, his/her license will be suspended pursuant to Michigan’s implied consent law. Under this law, all drivers are considered to have given consent to the test when they apply for and renew their driver’s license.

The penalties for operating under the influence of marihuana are the same as operating under the influence of alcohol. These penalties can include up to 93 days in jail, up to a $500 fine, license suspension, six points on a person’s driving record and more. There are heightened penalties if a driver has minors in the vehicle.

One final note — how are individuals storing and keeping their marijuana away from young children? The health department is initiating a “Lock ‘Em Up” campaign to assist parents in keeping their children safe. If you are interested in receiving a free lock box for your marijuana and other drugs/prescriptions, contact health educator Kelly Rumpf at 906-779-7234. In addition, if you have questions and would like to learn more, call the same number above. We will do our best to “explain” the registry program to you.

Those with questions on the MMMP’s application and registration process can contact MMMP directly by emailing MRA-MMMPINFO@mighigan.gov or calling 517-284-6400. You can also review their Frequently Asked Questions on their website.


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