Senator wants to remove 'moral character' language from MI marijuana laws

Law can block industry participation based on prior cannabis offenses

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A Michigan lawmaker believes that prior cannabis convictions from when the plant was illegal statewide should not stop people from now participating in the state's growing recreational cannabis industry.

A “moral character” clause in state law can be used to keep out people who were illegally selling marijuana who could otherwise join the legal industry.

A bill, purposed by Sen. Jeff Irwin of District 18 in Ann Arbor, would eliminate the language. The clause keeps people with old marijuana offenses from growing plants or getting licensed to run a marijuana store. Irwin says his bill would also align the state’s recreational and medical marijuana laws, according to Michigan Public Radio Network.

“Removing the ‘moral character clause’ eliminates unnecessary subjectivity from the licensure process,” Irwin said in a press release. “People with prior marijuana-related convictions should not be excluded from participating in the industry if they otherwise meet the requirements to receive a marijuana facility license.”

Also, he said, it’s not reasonable to expect people who sell marijuana will simply stop.

“It would seem to be especially important in the cannabis space that we open the door to the legal cannabis industry to folks who are very experienced in the illicit cannabis space,” he continued.

Under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency can deny an applicant because of their “integrity, moral character, and reputation” or if the applicant has any prior cannabis-related offenses, even if the crime has been pardoned, expunged or reversed, according to a press release from the senator’s office.

The bill has been assigned to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee. No Republicans have signed on as co-sponsors, but Irwin said he thinks the bill will eventually pick up GOP support. He said that would align with a bipartisan priority of clearing criminal records that can be used to deny people employment, according to Michigan Public Radio Network.