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According to Senator Patrick Colbeck, R-Canton, the new medical marijuana laws take home-grown industry created by a 2008 ballot proposal and have the industry explode. A caregiver could grow up to twelve marijuana plants for each patient and could not serve more than five patients under the old law. The law was unclear about dispensaries, leading to a surplus in some cities like Detroit that basically pretended not to notice the businesses in their communities and a police force in other towns that shut down businesses with immunity.

Three classes of growers are described in the new laws: people who can grow up to 500 plants, up to 1,000 plants, or up to 1,500 plants. They also create five classes of licenses: those for growers, testing facilities, transporters, the seed-to-sale tracking, and dispensaries. Communities can decide whether and where they will permit dispensaries to operate and charge an annual fee of up to $5,000 per dispensary.

The laws provide for a state tax at the dispensary level of 3 percent on gross receipts, of which 30 percent will go to the state general fund and much of the balance will go to local governments and police departments to help cover the cost of enforcement. License fees will support an comprehensive bureaucracy that is expected to cost the state about $21 million a year, including 113 full-time state licensing employees, 34 employees with the Michigan State Police to do background checks on applicants, and $550,000 to the Attorney General’s Office for legal expenses.

For the most part, licensing fees haven’t been set yet, except that the state can charge no more than $10,000 per license for the class of growers who cultivate up to 500 plants. Across the nation, eight states have legalized marijuana for recreational and medical uses. Another 20 states have medical marijuana laws and 17 more have laws legalizing medical cannabidiol, a strain of marijuana that provides pain relief without the psychoactive high that accompanies traditional marijuana.

Karen O’Keefe, director of state policies for the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington, D.C., organization that advocates for marijuana legalization, said the regulatory structures differ from state to state. In 17 of the 20 states that have only medical marijuana, the state Health Departments approve licensing and in three others: Arkansas, Maryland and Michigan, independent commissions deal with licenses.

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