Ten years after Michigan legalized cannabis for medical use, voters will have the chance to make it the tenth state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use marijuana. A proposal to legalize cannabis in Michigan will be on the ballot this November after gathering more than 277,000 signatures. And as voters prepare to make their decision, Michigan regulators are hustling to approve a backlog of cannabis business license applications on a compressed timeline that threatens to close down nearly a hundred dispensaries. Amidst this flurry of activity, legislators in Michigan’s House moved quickly to pass a bill banning cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages.
Michigan Lawmakers Vote to Ban a Drink That Doesn’t Exist
Considering the more pressing priorities facing Michigan’s nascent cannabis industry—a recent expansion of its medical use program and an impending vote on adult-use legalization—many are wondering why the Michigan House would legislate against a reality and a product that doesn’t exist yet.
On Tuesday, lawmakers in the House voted 101-4 in favor of a measure prohibiting the use, possession or sale of cannabis-infused alcoholic drinks. Its companion bill in the Senate, SB 969, passed earlier this year. Now, House Bill 4668 is headed to the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder, who is almost certain to sign it.
Lawmakers behind the legislation, like Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge), referenced Colorado as they spoke of the necessity of the ban. “This is happening in Colorado and we’re going to end up with it here,” Jones said, calling cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages a “recipe for disaster.”
Senator Jones is half right about Colorado. Colorado does have THC-infused wine and beer beverages. But these do not contain any alcohol. Similarly, alcoholic wine and beer beverages exist with CBD-infusions, but not THC. And the reason is simple: shops licensed to sell alcohol can’t sell cannabis products with THC. Likewise, weed shops can’t sell alcohol.
In short, Michigan lawmakers have passed a law banning something that not only doesn’t exist but can’t exist under law. Or in the words of Michigan NORML chapter board member Rick Thompson, the law “would affect zero people in Michigan.”
Alcoholic Beverage Makers Are Pursuing Partnerships with Weed Companies
It is the case, though, that cannabis companies and alcoholic beverage manufacturers are beginning to establish partnerships in Canada and the U.S. Rumors recently circulated about Coca-Cola having talks with Canadian cannabis producer Aurora Cannabis about a non-alcoholic CBD-infused beverage. Constellations Brands, the makers of Corona and other drinks, penned a deal with Canopy Growth to bring cannabis-infused beverages to Canada. And an ex-MillerCoors brewmaster has partnered with a Colorado company to develop cannabis-infused beers.
Furthermore, Canada’s federal government and the government of California are supporting research efforts into cannabis-infused drinks. And that’s a possibility that could still exist in Michigan, even if the law passes. HB 4668 exempts institutions and organization conducting research on weed-infused drinks. Or as Michigan law still writes it, “marihuana.”