Cannabis confusion: Officials hope to clear up new state law

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BARRY COUNTY, Mich. -- Many people are hoping to take advantage of the new Michigan law passed last year to set up a framework for the state to legalize, regulate and tax a broader range of the medical cannabis industry.

With that comes a lot of confusion, though, especially for those hoping to open retail dispensaries, which have been bogged down by legal questions since the state's original medical marijuana law was approved in 2008.

On one hand, Michigan's medical cannabis market will finally give patients access to legal pot and a step closer to legalizing recreational marijuana.  On the other hand, the new laws have left local cities trying decide how much the industry will grow locally, if at all.

Barry County is trying to get out ahead of it and educate its citizens on what this means for them, their businesses, their families and for people in need of medical marijuana.

Jerry Greenfield, a businessman who lives in Rutland Township, is looking for a new venture: a dispensary.

"The supervisor told me if I sit down and worked with him it would be a 100 percent 'go,'" Greenfield said.

But until December when he can get a license, Greenfield is a little confused and has some more questions.

"I think it needs to be clarified more, and they did a poor job of putting it together," he said.

Michael Callton, a former state representative, helped write the marijuana legislation.

"The biggest confusion was before my bill, and my bill was meant to correct the confusion," he said.

Callton says this is a great opportunity for entrepreneurs like Greenfield who can take advantage of a growing industry.

"You get municipal approval so they can decide if they will be allowed or not and then you can apply for a license from the state," Callton said.

Each separate town, township, city, etc. will have their own policy on medical marijuana and dispensaries, and then they will follow the guidelines that legislation lays out.

"It's going to be a great thing for the state," Callton said.

Callton is most proud of what this million dollar industry could do for the state in terms of tax revenue.

"Caregivers don't have to pay taxes but the retailers have to pay 25 percent of tax and 3 percent goes to law enforcemetn and fire," Greenfield said. "But the caregivers who are making 75 to 100 thousand dollars a year don't have to give anything."

How this will affect caregivers is yet to be seen.  Under the law, this won't give them any room to have a legal outlet for their excess product to be sold to dispensaries.  There will have to be licensed growers, just like transporters, processors and laboratories that are only selling to the dispensaries.

The county prosecutor and sheriff said it is a bit confusing as they are still trying to educate themselves and get comfortable with the laws as different cities start to make their decision on what they will allow or not allow.

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