7 things you need to know about legal marijuana in Michigan

A number of questions have popped up since passage of Proposition 1 on Tuesday: When does it go into effect? How much can you have and what types of cannabis? Can you smoke it anywhere? Can your employer still fire you for having weed in your system? Will previous marijuana convictions be expunged? The list goes on.

CADILLAC — It's clear that voters support the legalization of recreational marijuana in Michigan; what's not so clear is what that means moving forward.

A number of questions have popped up since passage of Proposition 1 on Tuesday: When does it go into effect? How much can you have and what types of cannabis? Can you smoke it anywhere? Can your employer still fire you for having marijuana in your system? Will previous marijuana convictions be expunged? The list goes on. 

The Cadillac News reached out to law enforcement and municipal officials to address these questions.

When does Prop 1 go into effect?

Michigan Municipal League Legislative Associate Jennifer Rigterink said the specific date the proposal will go into effect is currently unknown.

It will take effect 10 days after the elections are certified by the Michigan Board of Canvassers. 

She thinks they will meet sometime in the next two to six weeks to certify the elections, sometime before the end of the year, but there’s “no way of knowing exactly when that all will transpire.‘

However, once the election is certified and the act comes into place 10 days later, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has a year to come up with the regulations and systems to accept recreational marijuana license applications.

People can have recreational marijuana, but where they would get it she has no idea, she said.

So “we’re not going to see a recreational establishment pop up on the corner‘ anytime soon, and from the commercial and business side it’s not going to be until early 2020 recreational marijuana licenses will be issued.

How much cannabis can you have on you?

Wexford County Prosecutor Jason Elmore said a person over the age of 21 will be permitted to have up to 2.5 ounces on their person outside the home.

They are allowed to have up to 10 ounces at their home — as long as it is secured and out of reach of children — and up to 12 plants. For marijuana concentrates, it is no more than 15 grams.

The law also allows for the possession of marijuana-infused edibles.

Elmore said it cannot be possessed in schools and there also may be limits on when and where it may be consumed by private property owners, businesses, and municipalities.

Can you consume marijuana in public?

“It all depends on what’s being defined as public,‘ Rigterink said.

Is it a place that is open to the public like a recreational marijuana establishment or like a public park?

She said she believes it will be regulated like alcohol. You can’t walk down the street with a beer so she doesn’t believe you can walk down the street while smoking a joint.

An official statement from the Michigan State Police says the new law does not permit marijuana use in public places.

The MSP statement doesn't include details about what someone can be charged with if they are caught consuming marijuana in public.

"The MSP will consult with the Michigan Attorney General’s Office to determine specific impact on existing department policies and procedures, and will then train our members to ensure the new law is applied appropriately," according to the statement.

Elmore added that in the case of edibles and other forms of cannabis that don't produce a noticeable smoke, determining who may be consuming marijuana in public will be difficult for law enforcement.

Can you drive with cannabis in your system?

The new law does not change Michigan’s impaired driving laws, which means that driving under the influence of marijuana remains illegal, according to the MSP.

Elmore said it's still illegal to drive with any amount of marijuana in your system unless you have a medical marijuana card.

That means if police have probable cause, they can order a blood test and if there is any detectable trace of cannabis, a person can be charged.

Since marijuana can remain in a person's system for several weeks, even if they aren't under the influence at the time they were driving, it's possible they still could be charged with a crime, Elmore said.

An officer can develop probable cause by smelling marijuana or noticing impaired behavior but Elmore said it's still much more difficult to test for marijuana in a person's system than alcohol.

"This law merely says 'under the influence.' However, unlike alcohol, which has a per se cut-off level, this law does not," Elmore said. "Thus, we have potentially just invited more litigation and costs for prosecution for taxpayers and defendants."

Can an employer fire an employee with marijuana in their system?

Elmore said employers still have the right to implement their own policies regarding marijuana use, meaning there is nothing in the new law that requires them to permit employees to consume cannabis.

There are exceptions, however, for those who have a medical marijuana card, Elmore said.

The ballot proposal stated that the act did not require employers to permit or accommodate the consumption of marijuana in any workplace or on the employer's property.

"This act does not prohibit an employer from disciplining an employee for violation of a workplace drug policy or for working while under the influence of marijuana," it states. "This act does not prevent an employer from refusing to hire, discharging, disciplining, or otherwise taking an adverse employment action against a person with respect to hire, tenure, terms, conditions, or privileges of employment because of that person’s violation of a workplace drug policy or because that person was working while under the influence of marijuana."

Rigterink said it's “up to individual employers and how they want to proceed with their policies in their place of employment."

If an employer has a zero-tolerance drug policy, it will be up to them if they want to test their employees for marijuana or not.

Can municipalities limit or prohibit the operation of marijuana stores?

Laura Genovich, legal counsel for the city of Cadillac, said municipalities may not prohibit the use of marijuana within their boundaries but can regulate marijuana establishments.

She said they may completely prohibit marijuana establishments within their boundaries, limit the number of permitted establishments, and regulate any permitted establishments.

"Individuals may petition to initiate an ordinance to provide for the number of marijuana establishments or to completely prohibit marijuana establishments within a municipality, and if the petition requirements are met, then the ordinance must be submitted to the electors of the municipality at the next regular election," Genovich said.

Cadillac City Manager Marcus Peccia said the city council will be briefed on the issue at their next meeting.

"I encourage all municipalities, if they have not already, to consider if, where, and when they will allow such businesses," Elmore said. "Keep in mind that in Wexford County, the proposal failed. This is a message from the voters. I also encourage businesses to consider whether or not you will permit the consumption of these products in your businesses, such as restaurants."

What happens to people who have past marijuana convictions?

Nothing.

"Their convictions stand," Elmore said. "It is important to recognize that nearly half of our marijuana cases in Wexford also involve other crimes, especially other drugs, such as heroin and meth."

Rigterink said this is a question for an attorney, but the “law is prospective, not retrospective,‘ and does not believe this will change any past convictions.