A First Look at the Provisioning Centers Act
It is unlikely that the recently introduced HB 4271, the Medical Marihuana Provisioning Centers Act (PCA), will look exactly the way it does now when it becomes law, but it is worth getting to know—particularly for those planning to someday operate or use a center.
At its core, the PCA is a platform upon which Michigan can provide safe access to medical cannabis for the thousands of patients stranded after the Michigan Supreme Court’s decision in McQueen. It creates “provisioning centers,” formerly known as “dispensaries,” and provides significant protections for their operation, without impairing the private caregiver-patient relationship.
For all that it does do, the PCA is not the prettiest piece of legislation. It was drafted prior to McQueen and therefore does not address the inconsistencies presented by that case. It also potentially conflicts with the decriminalization of cannabis possession passed by some Michigan cities, and it gives overly-broad regulatory authority to municipalities. It only grandfathers in those dispensaries currently operating under municipal ordinances, which is about eight or so in the entire state, and I am bereft of an explanation for the onerous transportation provisions, which allow a municipality to ban the transport of cannabis within its borders.
One loophole this writer is particularly chagrined about is the lax restriction on out-of-state center ownership. In a state where dispensary owners have braved raids and an overreaching, overaggressive law enforcement community in order to bring MMJ safely to patients, it makes no sense not to protect these pioneers from outside commercial competition.
But for all of its flaws, the PCA is an urgently needed fix. It allows the commercial sale of medical cannabis through provisioning centers, without which, arguable, the original Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) is useless. It also allows for testing labs, and finally closes the much-lamented loopholes of seed sales, clones, medibles, etc. The bill also exempts provisioning centers from state or local civil prosecution and seizure, which should put a large dent in policing for profit.
It is important to remember when reading HB 4271 that cannabis law is unchartered territory, and that, like most developing law, getting it right is going to take a while. Cannabis remains a Schedule I controlled substance both at the state and federal levels, and so this is a state decriminalization bill. It does not amend the MMMA, and therefore will only require a simple majority vote to pass. Optimistically, we can expect passage out of the House this summer, and then we will have the more difficult task of getting it through the Senate.
It is difficult to understate the importance of this bill’s passage, as constitutional amendments and favorable court cases seem out of reach. And while it seems inevitable that this will all be sorted out someday, that day cannot come soon enough for Michigan’s patients, caregivers and dispensary owners.