Critics of House Bill 4668 say it prohibits a product that doesn’t exist.
After winning nearly unanimous approval from Michigan lawmakers, a bill banning the possession, sale and consumption of cannabis-infused alcoholic drinks arrive on the desk of Gov. Rick Snyder, who signed it into law on Tuesday. Now, the state of Michigan, a state without legal adult-use cannabis, has a law on the books prohibiting marijuana-infused beer, wine, liquor and mixed drinks. The new law carves out a space for researchers to study cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages. But there are no indications any such research is currently underway in Michigan.
Michigan Just Outlawed a Cannabis Product That Doesn’t Exist
Michigan legalized cannabis for medical use ten years ago. And this November, Michigan voters will have the chance to make it the tenth state in the U.S. to legalize adult-use cannabis. Meanwhile, state regulators are scrambling to approve a backlog of cannabis business licenses on a compressed timeline that threatens to close down nearly one hundred dispensaries. But considering these two pressing realities, a recent expansion of Michigan’s medical use program and an impending vote on adult-use legalization, many are wondering why the state would legislate against a reality that doesn’t exist yet.
House Bill 4668 amends two sections of the state’s liquor laws. The first change is a fairly technical one about the state liquor commission’s use of public funds. The second change addresses weed-infused alcohol. The bill states, “a person shall not use or offer for use, possess, sell, or offer for sale marihuana-infused [sic] beer, wine, mixed wine drink, mixed spirit drink, or spirits.” Anyone who breaks the law is guilty of a misdemeanor. Research hospitals, state institutions, private colleges and universities, and pharmaceutical and biotech companies conducting research into cannabis-infused drinks are exempt from the new rule.
Asked why lawmakers felt the need for such a bill, Sen. Rick Jones (R-Grand Ledge) pointed to Colorado. “This is happening in Colorado and […] we’re going to end up with it here.” Jones went on to call cannabis-infused alcoholic beverages a “recipe for disaster.” But Jones is only half right about Colorado. Colorado does have THC-infused wine and beer. But these products are non-alcoholic. Similarly, alcoholic beverages are available with CBD-infusions, but not THC. The reason for this is simple: retail cannabis shops aren’t licensed to sell booze. Vice versa, liquor stores don’t have the license they need to sell weed. Interestingly enough, infused drinks and foods are slated to be the biggest sub-industries in the cannabis space.
In sum, cannabis-infused alcoholic drinks aren’t legal anywhere. Even in states with legal weed, allowing unlicensed retailers to sell alcohol or cannabis is a surefire way to invite federal enforcement actions. Sure, there’s nothing stopping anyone from creating their own home-brewed cannabis cocktails. So far, however, regulated retail products containing both THC and ethanol simply don’t exist. Or in the words of Michigan NORML chapter board member Rick Thompson, the law affects “zero people in Michigan”. And that would be true whether or not voters legalize adult-use this November.
Of course, cannabis-infused alcoholic drinks could exist in the future. Both Canada and California are supporting research efforts into cannabis-infused drinks. And flagship beverage companies like Constellation Brands are beginning to partner with cannabis producers to develop such products.