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Lawmaker wants to strike 'moral character' clause from MI marijuana law


A Michigan lawmaker says an old marijuana conviction should not stop people from participating in the state’s growing recreational cannabis industry.

Senator Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) says a “moral character” clause in state law can be used to keep out people who were illegally selling marijuana who would otherwise join the legal industry. Irwin says his bill would also align the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws.

“It would seem to be especially important in the cannabis space that we open the door to the legal cannabis industry to folks who are very experienced in the illicit cannabis space,” Irwin says.

Also, he said, it’s not reasonable to expect people who sell marijuana will simply stop.

“I don’t think we want to exclude anyone who’s ever participated in the marijuana industry before it was legal from participating now that it is legal because that’s going to make it even harder for us to build the legal space and diminish the illicit space,” he says.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. No Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors. But Irwin says he thinks the bill will eventually pick up GOP support. He said that would align with a bipartisan priority of clearing criminal records that can be used to deny people employment.

Rick Pluta is Senior Capitol Correspondent for the Michigan Public Radio Network. He has been covering Michigan’s Capitol, government, and politics since 1987. His journalism background includes stints with UPI, The Elizabeth (NJ) Daily Journal, The (Pontiac, MI) Oakland Press, and WJR. He is also a lifelong public radio listener.