Medical marijuana cardholders and the caregivers who provide them with pot will get a break on the cost of getting registered under new rules proposed by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The rules, which won’t go into effect until later this year, would lower the cost of a two-year medical marijuana card from $60 to $40 for patients and eliminate several other fees, including a $10 fee to replace or change the address of a medical marijuana cardholder and a $25 fee for a criminal background check for medical marijuana caregivers.
The cost reduction comes 10 years after voters legalized medical weed in 2008. When the medical marijuana program first started, the cost for a patient was $100 a year, but that was reduced to $60 every two years in 2014.
The state will have to go through several public hearings in the coming months before the new rules are put in place.
In explaining the reason for the new rules, department officials said the cost of operating the medical marijuana program is now far less than the amount the state is collecting in fees.
“The revenue generated based on the current application fee for the past three years is approximately 90-100% more than (the department’s) operational expenses,” LARA said in a filing with the state Office of Regulatory Reinvention.
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The department has built up enough of a cushion from those registration fees to allow for the cost reductions for at least the next five years, spokesman David Harns said. In addition, the department also has reduced costs by accepting applications, renewal forms and updates to cards online.
Currently, there are approximately 297,515 registered medical marijuana cardholders in Michigan and 43,056 registered caregivers who are allowed to grow up to 72 plants — 12 plants for each of five medical marijuana cardholders and themselves.
“Our team has worked hard to streamline the process for medical marijuana cardholders in Michigan,” LARA Director Orlene Hawks said in a statement. “The proposed updated rules will dramatically lower the costs associated with medical marijuana registry cards for Michigan residents.”
In addition to the fee reductions, cardholders will have more time to renew their cards — from 60 to 90 days before they expire.
And cardholders also are in line to get a break on the cost of the product because the 3 percent excise tax on medical marijuana sold in dispensaries will be eliminated on March 6. That’s because Michigan voters approved legalizing weed for recreational use during the Nov. 6 general election and part of the 2016 state law that regulated and taxed medical marijuana included language to eliminate the excise tax on medical marijuana sales if recreational pot became legal.
Medical marijuana sold at dispensaries will still be subject to the state’s 6 percent sales tax. And recreational pot will also carry the 6 percent sales tax as well as a 10 percent excise tax when it becomes commercially available after state regulators set up rules and regulations for the recreational market by the end of this year.
Rick Thompson, a board member with the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, or NORML, said the proposed rules are welcome relief for patients who may have tight budgets.
“I’m excited to see the state right-sizing the medical-marijuana fee structure,” he said. “The state is collecting millions more than they expend every year. The fees should only be designed to recoup their costs.”
Robin Schneider, who worked on the ballot proposal to legalize weed last year and who is now the executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said any time the state can lower expenses for patients, “it’s a good move, especially if the state can afford it.”
Kathleen Gray covers the marijuana industry for the Detroit Free Press. Contact her: 313-223-4430, email@example.com or on Twitter @michpoligal.