practices

News

View News
June 2017

State Appoints Five to Medical Marijuana Board, Offers Guidance to Accountants Assisting Marijuana Businesses

FBMJ-Medical-Marijuana-Article

After a significant delay, Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder announced last week the appointment of five people to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, which will govern licensing of medical marijuana growers and dispensaries under the new state law going into effect in December, 2017.

Rick Johnson, a former state representative, will serve as chairman of the board. He will be joined by David LaMontaine, an executive board member of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan; Nichole Cover, chairwoman of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy and a health care supervisor for Walgreen Co.; Donald Bailey, a retired police sergeant; and Vivian Pickard, a former president of the General Motors Foundation. Johnson and LaMontaine were selected by the Senate Majority Leader and House Speaker, respectively, while the remaining board members were selected by Gov. Snyder.

In the months to come, the licensing board will implement the new law, including the licensing processes for marijuana growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers, and safety compliance facilities. A person may apply for one of these licenses under the act beginning in December, 2017. The board is expected to advise LARA on creating the specific rules and regulations that will govern the application process.

On May 19, 2017 the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and Board of Accountancy issued a joint statement of guidance for certified public accountant licensees providing services to the medical marijuana industry. Namely, licensees will not face any action by the Bureau of Professional Licensing or the Board of Accountancy based solely on the fact that they provide professional services to a client engaged in the medical marijuana industry. A licensee offering professional services to clients engaged in the medical marijuana industry that are in compliance with all state laws and administrative rules are not specifically prohibited from providing such services by the Michigan Occupational Code.

However, as an example of the complex and evolving nature of the medical marijuana industry, the state specifically cautioned that licensees should consider the uncertainty of federal enforcement of the Controlled Substances Act and the Internal Revenue Code. Namely, marijuana remains a Schedule I drug alongside heroin and LSD under federal law. While the Obama Administration forwent federal prosecution of those using marijuana for medicinal purposes, it remains unclear how the new presidential administration will enforce such federal laws.

U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions and the Trump Administration have given mixed signals as to whether they intend to use federal laws to crack down on recreational marijuana use, even in those states where such activity has been legalized. Most recently, the compromise bill to fund the federal government through September specifically bars the Department of Justice from pursuing marijuana users, growers, and sellers in states with legalized medical marijuana. As an example, Colorado has legal medical and recreational marijuana. And in a widely reported story, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper discussed a meeting he had with the Attorney General in which Sessions discussed other priorities and said “Well you haven’t seen us cracking down, have you?”

How the new administration enforces such federal laws can impact not only medical marijuana users in Michigan but also licensed professionals that provide accounting and other services to medical marijuana businesses. LARA specifically stated that it was not endorsing the provision of professional services to such businesses, nor commenting on how local, state and federal laws governing medical marijuana will be applied to licensees.

Foley, Baron, Metzger & Juip offers comprehensive administrative licensing services, including guidance with applications and the defense of licenses before the state licensing board. We also advise clients regarding medical marijuana law and the applicable state regulations. For additional information pertaining to these topics, please contact  Richard Baron (rbaron@fbmjlaw.com), Dan Cortez (dcortez@fbmjlaw.com), or Kim Sveska (ksveska@fbmjlaw.com).