Calling them "rushed," Governor Gretchen Whitmer rejected several bills, including some aimed at amending the state's medical cannabis system.
AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D) recently vetoed several bills passed during the lame-duck session by the state legislature at the end of 2022. A few of those pieces of legislation were Republican-sponsored items designed to address the state's medical marijuana program.
According to several outlets, Governor Whitmer rejected three bills centered around making changes to the processing and distribution of cannabis within the Michigan medical marijuana system.
Below is a description of what each statute would have provided.
House Bill 5871 was introduced by Rep. Roger Hauck (R – Union Township). It would have amended state law to ease access to medical cannabis products, making transferring items from one facility to another easier. The bill would also have eliminated background checks of an applicant's spouse under certain circumstances.
House Bill 5965, also sponsored by Hauck, would have updated the language and specific definitions in the state's Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, including the title for the state's Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA).
House Bill 5839, introduced by Rep. Pat Outman (R – Six Lakes), would have stopped the CRA from denying individuals a license to sell cannabis based on their spouses' jobs, including if a spouse is employed by the state or federal government.
As first reported by Michigan Advance, Governor Whitmer, in her veto letter sent to lawmakers on December 22nd, said the bills "were rushed through a lame duck session and need closer examination." The governor did sign other legislation, including bills related to the state judiciary, tourism, consumer protection and health care.
To further explain her reasoning for the veto actions, Whitmer also said, "I look forward to working with the new Legislature in January on priorities that will continue our economic momentum, help lower costs, and expand education supports for Michigan students. It is time to be serious about solving problems and getting things done that will make working families' lives better right now."
"I look forward to working with the new Legislature in January on priorities that will continue our economic momentum, help lower costs, and expand education supports for Michigan students. It is time to be serious about solving problems and getting things done that will make working families' lives better right now."
- Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D)
Part of the reasoning for her cautious approach to any further marijuana-related legislation may stem from the current tenuous state of the industry in Michigan. The state's adult-use cannabis market began operation in 2019. Early on, as with many new entrants into the recreational arena, the market experienced rapid growth and economic success. The massive spikes in consumption brought on by the COVID-19 lockdowns spurred growth and expansion in all legal state markets, and Michigan was no different.
However, like many others, Michigan has experienced substantial contraction and a significant drop in prices since the heady days of the pandemic. The price of cannabis has gone from $400 an ounce to less than $100 in just two years.
Much of that alarming drop in prices is due to overproduction. According to Politico, the number of marijuana plants produced in Michigan this past year is roughly six times the amount seen in 2020. That 75% plunge in prices has prompted many within the industry to advocate for a moratorium on cultivation licenses.
The price drop has been good for consumers who now only pay between $60 and $95 per ounce for cannabis. Likewise, retail sales are still booming, with a projected $2 billion annual tax revenue expected for 2022.
However, because of the oversupply issues and concern over falling prices, lawmakers and state executives, like Governor Whitmer, are wise in not rushing to implement legislation to apply "band-aids" to what could be much more severe systemic injuries. As a whole, the U.S. economy is going through a challenging transitionary period following the chaos and financial anxiety brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The adult-use and medical marijuana sectors are not immune to these perilous times. Therefore, state and federal government leaders and agencies must make wise and prudent decisions concerning the cannabis industry and its future direction. Having the fastest ship on the sea doesn't matter if it is headed in the wrong direction.