19-year-olds could work at Michigan marijuana dispensaries under House bill
- Currently, jobs in Michigan’s recreational marijuana industry are limited to those 21 and up
- A bill pending in the House would allow 19- and 20-year olds to work at dispensaries and other recreational marijuana facilities
- Industry groups argue the plan is a win-win for young people seeking work and businesses struggling to fill staffing shortages
If you’re 19 or 20, you can sell or serve alcohol in Michigan, and you can work at a medical marijuana facility. Apply to work at a recreational marijuana dispensary, though, and you’ll get told to come back when you’re 21.
Some Michigan lawmakers and industry groups are hoping to change that.
House Bill 4322, sponsored by Westland Democrat Kevin Coleman, would allow those over age 19 but under 21 — who are not allowed to consume recreational marijuana legally until they turn 21 — to work in Michigan’s multi-billion dollar recreational cannabis industry. Currently, recreational marijuana jobs are limited to people aged 21 and up.
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On Tuesday, the House Regulatory Reform Committee unanimously voted to move the bill to the House floor.
“This bill isn't about young folks consuming cannabis or changing their behavior around cannabis,” Coleman said at a recent House Regulatory Reform Committee hearing.
The change would allow “young folks to get in and learn the industry firsthand and to have an opportunity to become entrepreneurs themselves in a growing industry,” he continued.
A previous version of the bill introduced last session would have lowered the age even further to 18 — but Coleman told lawmakers during an April committee hearing that the change was made to prevent 18-year-olds, who are still in high school, from entering marijuana facilities.
Rep. Graham Filler, R-Duplain Township, said at the time that he’d prefer to see the age be lowered to 18 for “fairness” and to keep continuity with other industries.
Industry groups argue the plan is a win-win for young people seeking a foothold in a lucrative industry and for businesses struggling to fill staffing shortages, noting that there’s precedent for people not of legal drinking age to serve alcohol at work. Legislation passed last session allows employees as young as 17 to serve alcohol in certain situations.
Robin Schneider, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, noted in testimony on the bill that marijuana businesses are suffering from the same worker shortages every other business owner is.
The difference is that businesses working with recreational marijuana can’t recruit young adults, she said, adding that while there’s no corresponding age restriction on medical marijuana jobs, most businesses work with both medical and recreational marijuana and therefore adhere to the age limits.
That discrepancy “continues to be a stumbling block” for those in the cannabis industry seeking employees, said Micah Siegel, general counsel for cannabis company Pure Brands.
The company, which currently operates six dispensaries around the state, would benefit from being able to recruit 19- and 20-year-olds, especially in college towns like Ann Arbor and East Lansing where the young adult labor market is high and with several Michigan universities now teaching cannabis courses.
“In effect, this denies participation in one of the fastest growing industries in our state to over 400,000 Michiganders, young folks just joining the labor market,” he said.
The legislation would need to pass the House and Senate and be signed by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to become law.
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