Allowing folks to grow their own marijuana without fear of criminal prosecution is part of the ballot proposal that voters approved on Tuesday, but getting the materials needed to start a home-grow may be a challenge for budding horticulturists.
Until the recreational marijuana market gets up and running, one option is to get seeds or marijuana clones from someone already growing marijuana for medical use. But those items can only be given away, not sold.
Or you can buy seeds online, though that will put home growers at risk of violating federal law.
Marijuana use, possession and growing becomes legal in Michigan 10 days after the Board of Canvassers certifies the election results, which should be sometime in December.
But actual marijuana, along with the seeds and cannabis cuttings used for home grows, won’t be commercially available for sale until the state Department of Licensing and Regulation develops the rules governing the adult recreational market. And that won’t happen until probably early 2020.
“The longer it takes the state to set up retail stores, the more people will be home growing,” said Matt Abel, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws or NORML. “I expect a rush on the grow stores in December because people are going to be getting lights and fans for Christmas.”
The ballot proposal allows people at least 21 to grow up to 12 plants for personal use as long as they don’t sell any of the pot. But how does one start a personal grow without easy access to seeds or plants?
Marijuana seeds are available for sale online. But shipping that product across state lines is still considered a crime because the federal government classifies marijuana as an illegal substance.
“Absolutely not — nothing is legal when it’s shipped across state lines,” said Barton Morris, a Royal Oak attorney specializing in the laws surrounding the marijuana industry.
Caregivers, who have been legally growing medical marijuana under a 2008 Michigan law passed by voters, can give away marijuana, seeds and clones — rooted cuttings from existing marijuana plants — but under the ballot proposal passed on Tuesday, they can’t accept payment for those items. And they can’t give it away to anyone under the age of 21.
Currently, there are 43,056 registered caregivers in Michigan, who are allowed to grow up to 12 plants for each of five patients, and there are 297,515 registered medical marijuana cardholders in the state.That system stays in place even with the law that voters passed by a 56-44 percent margin on Tuesday.
Abel said that provision may result in some fast and loose ways to get seeds and clones to gardeners.
“Under the Michigan recreational law, you can give cannabis to someone, you can gift it,” he said. “In Washington D.C., it’s legal to possess, but not legal to sell marijuana. So, some people are saying, ‘Buy this coffee mug for $50 bucks and we’ll fill it with cannabis.’ ”
Morris said that would not be a wise choice for Michiganders looking to get into the home grow market.
“That’s not legitimate. It’s so obvious that it’s an attempt to work around the law,” he said. “That defeats the entire purpose of the law.
“If we’re seriously going to try to transition to a commercial market, we’re just going to have to wait for it,” Morris added. “Colorado didn’t happen immediately and we won’t either.”
Voters in Colorado passed legal weed in 2012 and the commercial market wasn’t established until 2014.
Aspiring home growers can plant their cannabis inside or outdoors, but outdoor grows have to be walled and locked and can’t be visible to anyone passing by.
And there is a movement to try and restrict the home grow portion of the ballot proposal. Many Republican lawmakers never supported the ballot proposal to legalize marijuana in Michigan and now want to take a look at tweaking the language of the law.
“I personally have concerns about the home grow portion of it. We’ve left that wide open,” said Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-West Olive. “I don’t know that this state would hire folks to see if people were only growing 12 plants.”
He worries that people will grow more than 12 plants and fuel the black market with marijuana that’s not tested and won’t be tracked or taxed by the state.
Changing the language of the ballot proposal would be a steep climb. Since it was passed by voters, any changes would need a three-fourths vote from the Legislature. While that change could happen in the current Republican-led Senate, where the GOP holds a 27-11 majority, it would be tougher in the House of Representatives, where the GOP has a 63-46 majority. Changes in the law would have a better chance of happening during the three-week lame duck session of the Legislature, which begins on Nov. 27. After the Legislature adjourns for the year in mid-December, the GOP majorities will shrink to 22-16 in the Senate and 58-52 in the House.
Morris tried to allay the fears about the home grows.
“Twelve plants are not a significant amount, especially at home where conditions aren’t ideal,” he said. “The plants are never flowering at the same time, so 12 plants are truly what we believe is an appropriate number for personal consumption.”
Depending on the strain and the growing conditions, a single marijuana plant can yield anywhere from 2 ounces to 2 pounds.
The Healthy and Productive Michigan group, which opposed the legalization proposal, is also considering its options to try and stem the tide of legal weed that will surely flood the Michigan market.
Their first priority will be working with communities that want to prohibit marijuana businesses in their communities, which is allowed under the ballot proposal.
“Within the first 24 hours after the election, we heard from more than 20 communities and it’s closer to 50 to 60 now,” said Scott Greenlee, executive director of the group. “There’s already significant buyer’s remorse.”
While he said he’d love to see the Legislature take some action to limit home grows, the group hasn’t decided whether it will join that effort.
“I think the more limits put on this thing, the better,” Greenlee said. “We won’t oppose any limits.”
Abel issued a warning to legislators and others who want to change the legalization of marijuana.
“I think some legislators could face some recalls if they try to do it,” he said. “The people spoke loud and clear on Tuesday.”
Source: Detroit Free Press