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'Moral Character' Has No Place in Marijuana Licensing

One Michigan senator is pushing to remove the clause via legislation.

This story originally appeared on Benzinga

Senator Jeff Irwin (D) presented a new bill last week that aims to align licensing protocols for Michigan’s medical and adult-use programs by removing a “moral character” clause from the medical cannabis licensing policy. 

If the bill, which is assigned to the Senate Judiciary and Public Safety Committee, becomes law, marijuana regulators in Michigan could no longer refuse to issue a medical cannabis license to someone based on “moral character and reputation” or previous cannabis convictions. 

“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,” Irwin said, adding it would be unreasonable to assume illegal cannabis sales would simply end.

“I don’t think we want to exclude anyone who’s ever participated in the marijuana industry before it was legal from participating now that it is legal because that’s going to make it even harder for us to build the legal space and diminish the illicit space," Irwin noted.

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Moral character clause invites inequality and corruption 

One of the most important problems with the “moral clause” is its existence in the medical cannabis program but not in the recreational.

Irwin told Marijuana Moment in a phone interview on Monday that the subjective nature of the moral character clause “invites unequal application of the law, it invites favoritism, it invites corruption.”

To build a successful legal market “we need to keep the taxes low,” Irwin continued. “We need to keep the barriers to entry low. We need to welcome people who might have a marijuana conviction on their record into the licensed space. That’s all part of being successful as a state in making sure the majority of transactions are taking place in a safe and regulated legal space.”

Michigan cannabis sales hit a record $171 million in July, which in return brought more than $23 million in tax revenue funding the Great Lake roads, schools and counties. 

The bill is co-sponsored by Senators Sean McCann, Stephanie Chang and Sylvia Santana, all Democrats, but according to Irwin, the bill should ultimately garner GOP support. 

Last week, Irwin separately introduced the legislation to legalize the possession and cultivation of certain psychedelics.