The Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board met on August 21 at the Kellogg Hotel and Conference Center on the campus of Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan. The meeting began at 1:30 p.m. and did not end until the solar eclipse of 2017 had come and gone over the Midwestern United States. Only four of the five board members were present, with an estimated 200 people in attendance hoping to see a draft of some new rules. This gathering created much stress in the community about the future of cannabis in the state, but rest assured that you can read this recap of the statements and proposals made during that meeting.
On the subject of “old business,” former Michigan State Police Detective/Sgt. Donald Bailey proposed to make all collectives close by September 15. Board Member Vivian Picard thought that might be a bit rushed, and so she was able to make an amendment to move the date to September 15. That ended up being tabled, presumably to hear public comment on that issue. Interesting, later in the meeting, Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) Director Andrew Brisbo remarked that any motions by the board are advisory and to be decided in consultation with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).
The Board also passed a motion introduced by board member David LaMontaine to have municipalities, which pass ordinances authorizing establishment of facilities, forward copies to the Board and/or LARA and have them published on a website as public information. LaMontaine is the same member who moved to table the earlier motion and expressed desire to implement the law fairly and with transparency.
There was an announcement by Brisbo that LARA this fall will tour a “road show” around the state to provide information to municipalities, prospective applicants and the public regarding implementation of the licensing process and especially an introduction to the METRC seed-to-sale tracking software system. More information about software is available on the web at www.metrc.com/michigan.
Colleen Curtis, Deputy Director of LARA told the crowd of around 200 people (the meeting was live-streamed as well) that there will be five work-groups established to gather information and get feedback useful for each license category—growing, processing, retail, testing and transporting. Anyone is welcome to apply to be selected as a member of any workgroup, and persons need to submit a brief explanation of no more than 150 words detailing the individual’s qualifications for inclusion in the stakeholder work group. The deadline to apply for the workgroups is September 5 at 9 a.m., and there was no information regarding the size of the workgroups or their schedules.
The formal rule-making process, which was just recently requested on this subject, could take many months before finalization. Accordingly, it is likely that the industry will be subject to emergency rules proposed by the agency and approved by the governor, which would be in effect for six months with possible extension.
Many patients spoke of the harm to befall them and others if collectives are closed before new facilities are open. While board members said that patients’ needs should come first, they needed to hear firsthand about the serious and well-justified concerns of medical cannabis patients. At the conclusion of public comments, member Bailey moved to take his earlier motion off the table and again try to force all collectives in Michigan to close in short order.
While there is some sentiment not to reward actors who have engaged in grey area activity, others expressed exasperation that all those with any experience in collective operations may be barred from obtaining licenses. A reasonable middle ground would be not to punish businesses that have been operating with the acquiescence or actual licensing of the local municipality, and not to shut down any more collectives until a good number of state-licensed Provisioning Centers are open and operating with varieties of cannabis products tested and labeled for purity and potency by a licensed Safety Compliance Facility. Anything less is unfair to patients.