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Senate passes bill expanding medical marijuana license eligibility

A pot plant.
Previously, anyone convicted of a felony within the last 10 years or a misdemeanor within the last 5 years was shut out from the medical marijuana industry.

The state Senate Wednesday advanced a bill that would allow individuals convicted of marijuana-related offenses to participate in the medical marijuana industry.

Under the 2016 Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, anyone convicted of a felony within the last 10 years or a misdemeanor within the last 5 years was shut out from gaining a state license. HB 4295 would add an exception to make them eligible.

State Sen. Jeff Irwin (D-Ann Arbor) voted in favor of the bill. He said it’s a small step in the right direction.

“Some of these rules that were preventing anyone who had previously been involved in cannabis before it was legal to participate in the legal market were just making it more difficult for the legal market to be successful,” Irwin said.

He said the legislature has slowly been getting rid of similar restrictions on licensing for a broad variety of areas.

“Preventing people from being involved in the field because of a past petty offense is not helpful to our economy. It’s not helpful to their families,” Irwin said. Though he added the goal is to not add eligibility for all people convicted of any crime to gain licensure.

Steve Linder is executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association. He said, despite not taking an official position on HB 4295, his group has supported allowing people with records to apply for licenses.

“There’s been an attitude in the shaping in all of these laws that now that it is legal, unless you are convicted of other types of crimes and you had served your time on behalf of society, that there really should be no future barrier to you participating,” Linder said.

The bill also allows, with some exceptions for conflict of interest, for spouses of state employees and tribal officials to receive a license.

It passed the Senate on a 35-1 vote.