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FAQ:  Recreational Marijuana in Michigan

Is marijuana legal?

In November 2018, Michigan voters passed Proposition 1, which legalized recreational marijuana for adults 21 and older in Michigan. Voters previously voted to legalize medical marijuana in the state in 2008. However, marijuana for both recreational and medical use is still federally illegal under the Controlled Substances Act.

The National District Attorneys Association explains that "state laws that authorize, license and regulate the possession, production, use and distribution of marijuana directly conflict with and are subject to preemption by federal drug laws that prohibit those same activities," and that the Department of Justice could decide to enforce these federal laws at any time.1

In other words, local governments that accept tax revenue from marijuana establishments, as well as organizations that accept donations from marijuana businesses, could be held liable under federal law. 

The same goes for banks that are regulated federally; these banks open themselves up to government seizure by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) if they choose to accept money from a federally illegal act, which is why many marijuana businesses operate as cash-only.2'3

What are the rules under the new law?

The Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana4 Act authorizes the legal possession, processing, consumption, gifting, and sale of marijuana for adults 21 and older. The Act also puts the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) in charge of establishing the rules on licensing, regulation, and enforcement. However, LARA has yet to define these rules.5 

This means that potency, serving sizes, packaging, labeling, and advertising of recreational marijuana are not currently regulated in Michigan, as they are in other jurisdictions, including Canada.6 If LARA does not enact rules by December 6, 2019, it will be up to each local government to regulate any and all marijuana facilities in their jurisdiction. 

Although recreational marijuana is now legal for adults 21 and older, it is still illegal to drive while under the influence. 

Does the new law mean marijuana businesses will be in my community?

Not necessarily. While Michigan voters approved Proposal 1, that does not translate into public support for the establishment of commercial marijuana businesses in their communities, and local governments are not required by this law to allow marijuana facilities in their jurisdictions. Each municipality has the option either to accept & regulate businesses or to prohibit them. Local governments would need to adopt an ordinance if they wish to prohibit or limit marijuana establishments.

More than 250 Michigan communities have already decided to opt-out and prohibit any recreational marijuana facilities. Similarly, 75% of communities in Colorado and 86% in California have opted out of allowing marijuana establishments.7'8

Is marijuana harmful to use? 

Yes, especially to youth. This is because the human brain is not fully developed until the mid to late 20s and because marijuana potency has increased significantly. Youth marijuana use has been found to affect mental health, learning and memory, and the potential for substance abuse.  

Mental Health:

  • Heavy marijuana users are more likely to report thoughts of suicide9
  • Evidence suggests that marijuana use is likely to increase the risk of developing schizophrenia, other psychoses, and social anxiety disorders10
  • Adolescent cannabis consumption was associated with increased risk of developing depression and suicidal behavior later in life, even in the absence of a premorbid condition11

Learning & Memory:

  • The National Institute on Drug Abuse states that when individuals begin using marijuana as teenagers, marijuana can reduce thinking, memory, and learning functions and affects how the brain builds connections between the areas necessary for these functions. NIDA also states that marijuana’s effects on these abilities may last a long time or even be permanent12
  • There is evidence that heavy use of marijuana as a teenager can result in a permanent IQ loss of up to eight points13
  • Marijuana use is linked to lower grades, higher likelihood of dropping out of school, and a lower likelihood of enrolling in college14

Risk for Substance Abuse:

  • Marijuana can be addictive and research shows that 1 in 6 individuals who use marijuana before the age of 18 will become addicted15
  • Residents of states with marijuana laws have abuse and dependence rates almost twice as high as states with no such laws16
  • The concentration of THC, the psychoactive substance in marijuana, has increased significantly from approximately 4% in the early 1980s to 19.6% in 201717'18, increasing the risk of adverse effects and the potential for addiction.19Marijuana-infused baked goods and candies, known as edibles, have a THC potency several times that of smoked marijuana, sometimes more than 90%20
  • A large, nationally representative sample of U.S. adults found that more than 4 in 10 people who ever used marijuana went on to use other illicit drugs21
  • The Centers for Disease Control has found that individuals who are addicted to marijuana are three times more likely to become addicted to heroin22
  • The use of e-cigarettes or vapes is associated with subsequent marijuana use23

Physical Harm:

  • Evidence suggests that marijuana use prior to driving increases the risk of being involved in a motor vehicle accident24
  • States that have legalized marijuana have seen a 6% increase in marijuana-related traffic deaths25'26
  • States that have legalized marijuana have seen a surge in marijuana-related poison control calls, especially for children and pets27

How does legalized recreational marijuana for adults affect youth use? 

Although marijuana use is still illegal for anyone under the age of 21, the American Academy of Pediatrics states that the legalization of recreational and medicinal marijuana by many states has “created an environment in which marijuana increasingly is seen as acceptable, safe, and therapeutic."28

Nationally and locally, the percentage of youth who believe marijuana use is harmful is decreasing. As perception of harm decreases, youth marijuana use increases.29 We already know that zip codes with higher alcohol outlet densities (more businesses selling alcohol) experience higher underage drinking rates.30'31

Several marijuana products use colorful packaging and names that can be easily confused for similar, commonplace food and candy products without marijuana, including gummy bears, "Pot Tarts," "Keef Kats," and "Budda-finger" candy bars.  States that have legalized marijuana have seen a surge in marijuana-related poison control calls, especially for children and pets.32

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, they have seen a significant increase in teen use of highly potent, distilled THC concentrates, including vaping, dabbing and eating.33 These products often have a THC potency several times that of smoked marijuana, sometimes more than 90%. In an effort to combat youth use, Colorado now bans marijuana edibles in the shape of humans, animals, and fruits – and requires potency labeling.34

What about medical marijuana and CBD?

Medical marijuana was legalized in Michigan in 2008, yet LARA did not establish distinct rules and regulations until 2015. 

However, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not approved any product containing or derived from botanical marijuana for any indication,35 which leaves the medical marijuana industry lacking any federal regulation. 

The FDA has approved of the drugs Marinol and Syndros, which both contain synthetic forms of THC, to treat nausea and vomiting caused by cancer chemotherapy, as well as weight loss and poor appetite in patients with AIDS.36 These drugs can be legally prescribed by a doctor, come in the form of a pill (Marinol) and liquid (Syndros), have regulated dosages, and are sold in pharmacies by licensed pharmacists and technicians. 

CBD, short for cannabidiol, is one of the non-psychoactive components of the cannabis plant. Recently, CBD products have been popping up everywhere, claiming to fix a plethora of ailments. Although CBD is technically legal, CBD products are not regulated by the FDA, which means their safety and effectiveness has not been verified.37 The FDA has even sent warnings to companies who claim their CBD products treat or prevent diseases when there is no scientific evidence to support these claims. The FDA has only approved of one drug containing CBD: the medicine Epidiolex, which was recently approved to treat two rare, severe forms of epilepsy after several clinical trials.  

Since CBD products are not federally regulated, you can't believe what their labels say. A 2017 study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that only 31 percent of CBD products they bought online contained the same amount of CBD claimed on their labels.38 In fact, they found that 20 percent of these products contained THC – the psychoactive component of marijuana that can get you high.39 

Won't my community benefit from the tax revenue? 

Under the new law, Michigan will tax recreational marijuana at the lowest rate of any state that has legalized recreational use. 

Even though sales are expected to generate tax revenue, much more money is lost as public expenses. The estimated public safety, regulatory, and productivity costs of recreational marijuana exceeds anticipated revenues by 25%.40

For reference, every $1 gained from alcohol and tobacco tax revenues, it's estimated that $10 is lost in legal, health, social, and regulatory costs.41

What are the rules about advertising?

There aren't any. The advertising of marijuana is currently unrestricted and unregulated in Michigan. 

This is concerning because the American Academy of Pediatrics states that advertising has a pervasive influence on children and adolescents and may contribute significantly to substance use.42

Yet, LARA could still choose to establish advertising regulations. 

In Colorado, where recreational marijuana is legal, advertising retail marijuana is prohibited on TV, on radio, in print, and via the internet when 30 percent or more of the audience is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.43 Colorado also prohibits any advertising of marijuana that would visible to members of the public from any street, sidewalk, park or other public place, including billboards.

Colorado has also taken extra steps to protect youth from marijuana advertising. Advertising or signage that specifically targets individuals under the age of 21, including the use of cartoon characters, is prohibited.  Retail marijuana establishments are also not allowed to sponsor charity, sporting or similar events unless the establishment has reliable evidence that no more than 30 percent of the audience at the event and/or viewing the advertising in connection with the event is reasonably expected to be under the age of 21.

Similarly, the Master Settlement Agreement states that in the United States, tobacco companies are not allowed to sponsor any events in which the intended audience is comprised of a significant percentage of youth or in which any paid participants or contestants are youth.44 Tobacco companies are also no longer allowed to market or advertise directly or indirectly to youth, to use cartoons in marketing, or advertise on billboards

What's next?

The SRSLY coalitions in Chelsea, Dexter, Manchester, and Stockbridge are dedicated to empowering youth to live healthy, substance-free lives. To help reduce youth marijuana use, the coalitions are working to educate community members, reduce youth access to marijuana, and limit youth exposure to  pro-marijuana messaging. Therefore, SRSLY urges the following: 

  • That local governments to consider scientific facts and historical evidence in deciding what is best for our communities.
  • That local governments that choose to opt-out of allowing marijuana establishments in their municipalities notify LARA and make public comment or distribute an official press release announcing their action.
  • That local businesses and schools refuse to allow advertising and signage for marijuana and/or the distribution of publications or media that have such advertising on their premises.
  • That organizations, non-profits, and schools refuse donations or sponsorships from the marijuana industry.
  • That public schools and administration prohibit representatives from the marijuana industry to give presentations to students.
  • That employers adopt new, specific policies to protect youth health and safety and communicate those policies with employees.
  • That LARA  adopt policies and regulations that will protect youth health and safety, including limits on marijuana potency and advertising, strict requirements on packaging and labeling, and strong penalties for furnishing marijuana to persons under 21.

Where can I learn more?

Latest Law Updates
https://www.michigan.gov/marijuana 

Michigan Municipal League White Paper on Recreational Marijuana http://www.mml.org/pdf/resources/marijuana/Rec%20Marihuana%20white%20paper%20-%20final%2011-29-18.pdf 

Regulating Commercially Legalized Marijuana as a Public Health Priority 

https://www.apha.org/policies-and-advocacy/public-health-policy-statements/policy-database/2015/01/23/10/17/regulating-commercially-legalized-marijuana-as-a-public-health-priority 

Marijuana: Facts Parents Need to Know by the National Institute of Drug Abuse
https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/marijuana-facts-parents-need-to-know/letter-to-parents 

How To Talk to Your Kids About Marijuana by the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids
https://drugfree.org/article/how-to-talk-about-marijuana/ 

Get Involved

Get in touch with your local SRSLY group to learn more about how you can get involved:

SRSLYChelsea.org
SRSLYStockbridge.org
SRSLYDexter.org
SRSLYManchester.org

Footnotes

  1. National District Attorneys Association. Marijuana Policy: The State and Local Prosecutors’ Perspective. (2017). Retrieved from https://ndaa.org/wp-content/uploads/NDAA-White-Paper-on-Marijuana.pdf
  2. Angell, T. (2018, June 13). Marijuana Banking Measure Rejected By Congressional Committee. Forbes. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/tomangell/2018/06/13/marijuana-banking-measure-rejected-by-congressional-committee/#1b75a5842087

  3. Bricken, H. (2018, May 28). Marijuana Banking Fraud: What You Need to Know. Retrieved from https://www.cannalawblog.com/marijuana-banking-fraud-what-you-need-to-know/
  4.  Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Why is marijuana sometimes spelled with an "h" and other times spelled with a "j"? Retrieved from: https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-89334_79571_83746-449300--,00.html
  5.  House Fiscal Agency. Ballot Proposal 1 of 2018. Retrieved from: http://www.house.michigan.gov/hfa/PDF/Alpha/Ballot_Proposal_2018-1_Marijuana_Initiative.pdf
  6.  Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs. Adult-Use (Recreational) Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.michigan.gov/lara/0,4601,7-154-89334_79571_90056---,00.html
  7. Fuller, T. (2018, March 17). Oakland Embraces Marijuana Sales. Compton Bans Them. How is Justice Best Served? New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/03/17/us/california-marijuana-oakland-compton.html
  8. Witsil, F., & Gray, K. (2018, November 7). Marijuana legalized in Michigan, but group plans to keep fighting it. Detroit Free Press. Retrieved from https://www.freep.com/story/news/local/michigan/detroit/2018/11/07/weed-marijuana-legalization-michigan/1917981002/
  9. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from  http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
  10.  National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from  http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
  11.  Gobbi G, Atkin T, Zytynski T, et al. Association of Cannabis Use in Adolescence and Risk of Depression, Anxiety, and Suicidality in Young Adulthood: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. JAMA Psychiatry. Published online February 13, 2019. Retrieved from https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamapsychiatry/fullarticle/2723657?guestAccessKey=ca2d5287-277b-497a-a025-3826723adac1
  12.  NIDA (2017). Marijuana. Retrieved from https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/marijuana
  13.  Meier, M.H., Caspi, A., Ambler, A., et al. Persistent cannabis users show neuropsychological decline from childhood to midlife. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 109(40). Retrieved from http://www.pnas.org/content/109/40/E2657.full
  14. Mccaffrey, D. F., Pacula, R. L., Han, B., & Ellickson, P. (2009). Marijuana use and high school dropout: the influence of unobservables. Health Economics, 19(11), 1281-1299. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2910149/
  15. Lopez-Quintero, C., Cobos, J. P., Hasin, D. S., Okuda, M., Wang, S., Grant, B. F., & Blanco, C. (2011). Probability and predictors of transition from first use to dependence on nicotine, alcohol, cannabis, and cocaine: Results of the National Epidemiologic Survey on Alcohol and Related Conditions (NESARC). Drug and Alcohol Dependence, 115(1-2), 120-130. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3069146/
  16.  Cerda, M., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: Investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 120(1-3). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871611002742
  17. O'Bryan, R. (2018). Colorado Kids Are Canaries in the Coal Mine of Marijuana Legalization (Rep.). Smart Colorado. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/397258307/Report-Colorado-Kids-Are-Canaries-in-the-Coal-Mine-of-Marijuana-Legalization
  18.  Mehmedic, Z., et al. (2010). Potency trends of D9-THC and other cannabinoids in confiscated cannabis preparations from 1993 to 2008. The Journal of Forensic Sciences, 55(5). Retrieved from http://www.academia.edu/11547588/Potency_Trends_of_%CE%949-THC_and_Other_Cannabinoids_in_Confiscated_Cannabis_Preparations_from_1993_to_2008_
  19.  Ryan, S. A., & Ammerman, S. D. (2017). Counseling parents and teens about marijuana use in the era of legalization of marijuana. Pediatrics, 139(3). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/02/23/peds.2016-4069
  20. O'Bryan, R. (2018). Colorado Kids Are Canaries in the Coal Mine of Marijuana Legalization (Rep.). Smart Colorado. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/397258307/Report-Colorado-Kids-Are-Canaries-in-the-Coal-Mine-of-Marijuana-Legalization
  21.  Secades-Villa R, Garcia-Rodríguez O, Jin C J, Wang S, Blanco C. Probability and predictors of the cannabis gateway effect: A national study. The International journal on drug policy. 2015;26(2):135-142. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4291295/
  22. Centers for Disease Control. Today's heroin epidemic infographics more people at risk, multiple drugs abused. CDC, 7 July 2015. Retrieved from https://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/heroin/infographic.html
  23.  Dai, H., Catley, D., Richter, K. P., Goggin, K., & Ellerbeck, E. F. (2018). Electronic Cigarettes and Future Marijuana Use: A Longitudinal Study. Pediatrics, 141(5). Retrieved from: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/pediatrics/early/2018/04/19/peds.2017-3787.full.pdf
  24. National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. (2017). The health effects of cannabis and cannabinoids: Current state of evidence and recommendations for research. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. Retrieved from  http://nationalacademies.org/hmd/reports/2017/health-effects-of-cannabis-and-cannabinoids.aspx
  25. Cerda, M., et al. (2012). Medical marijuana laws in 50 states: Investigating the relationship between state legalization of medical marijuana and marijuana use, abuse and dependence. Drug & Alcohol Dependence, 120(1-3). Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0376871611002742
  26. Crashes rise in first states to begin legalized retail sales of recreational marijuana. (2018, October 18). Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. Retrieved from https://www.iihs.org/iihs/news/desktopnews/crashes-rise-in-first-states-to-begin-legalized-retail-sales-of-recreational-marijuana
  27. Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances (pp. 55-67, Publication). (2018). The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Retrieved from: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/childhood-poisoning-safeguarding-young-children-addictive-substances
  28. Ryan, S. A., & Ammerman, S. D. (2017). Counseling parents and teens about marijuana use in the era of legalization of marijuana. Pediatrics, 139(3). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/02/23/peds.2016-4069
  29.  Johnston, L.D., O’Malley, P.M., Miech, R.A., Bachman, J.G., & Schulenberg, J.E. (2016). Monitoring the Future national survey results on drug use: 1975-2015: Overview: Key findings on adolescent drug use. Ann Arbor, MI: Institute for Social Research, The University of Michigan. Retrieved from http://www.monitoringthefuture.org/pubs/monographs/mtf-overview2015.pdf
  30. Alcohol – Excessive Consumption: Regulation of Alcohol Outlet Density. (2013, September 24). Retrieved from https://www.thecommunityguide.org/findings/alcohol-excessive-consumption-regulation-alcohol-outlet-density
  31. Chen, M., Grube, J. W., & Gruenewald, P. J. (2010). Community Alcohol Outlet Density and Underage Drinking. Addiction, 105(2), 270-278. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2810108/
  32. Childhood Poisoning: Safeguarding Young Children from Addictive Substances (pp. 55-67, Publication). (2018). The National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Retrieved from: https://www.centeronaddiction.org/addiction-research/reports/childhood-poisoning-safeguarding-young-children-addictive-substances
  33. O'Bryan, R. (2018). Colorado Kids Are Canaries in the Coal Mine of Marijuana Legalization (Rep.). Smart Colorado. Retrieved from: https://www.scribd.com/document/397258307/Report-Colorado-Kids-Are-Canaries-in-the-Coal-Mine-of-Marijuana-Legalization
  34. New rules implemented to make marijuana less appealing to children. (2017, September 25). Colorado Department of Revenue. Retrieved from http://www.eptrail.com/estes-park-columnists/ci_31320267/new-rules-implemented-make-marijuana-less-appealing-children
  35.  U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2017, February 28). Public health focus - FDA and marijuana: Questions and answers. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm421168.htm
  36.  U.S. Food & Drug Administration. (2017, February 28). Public health focus - FDA and marijuana: Questions and answers. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/NewsEvents/PublicHealthFocus/ucm421168.htm
  37.  Rabin, R. C. (2019, February 25). CBD Is Everywhere, but Scientists Still Don't Know Much About It. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2019/02/25/well/live/cbd-cannabidiol-marijuana-medical-treatment-therapy.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
  38.  Friedman, R. A. (2018, December 26). Is CBD Helpful, or Just Hype? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/opinion/cbd-cannabis-health-anxiety.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
  39.  Friedman, R. A. (2018, December 26). Is CBD Helpful, or Just Hype? Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2018/12/26/opinion/cbd-cannabis-health-anxiety.html?smid=nytcore-ios-share
  40. Cost. Retrieved from http://healthyandproductivemi.org/cost/
  41. Urban Institute and Brookings Institute, 2012; Tax Policy Center, 2008
  42. The Council on Communications and Media. (2010). Policy statement: Children, adolescents, substance abuse, and the media. Pediatrics, 126(4). Retrieved from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/126/4/791
  43.  Colorado Department of Revenue Marijuana Enforcement Division. (2013). Permanent rules related to the retail marijuana code. R1100 Series - Signage & Advertising. (107-117). Retrieved from https://www.colorado.gov/pacific/sites/default/files/Retail%20Marijuana%20Rules,%20Adopted%20090913,%20Effective%20101513%5b1%5d_0.pdf
  44.  Master Settlement Agreement. Retrieved from http://www.publichealthlawcenter.org/topics/tobacco-control/tobacco-control-litigation/master-settlement-agreement