Plan Outlined to Streamline Michigan Pot Licensing

The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association is praising Gov. Gretchen Whitmer for doing away with the slow and inconsistent process of regulating medical marijuana.

Whitmer, who took office in January, recently issued an executive order dissolving the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, formed by her predecessor, Gov. Rick Snyder. The board had been criticized for the slow rate of license approvals and what many in the industry said were inconsistent and unfounded denials for the various players in the medical marijuana industry.

The executive order dissolves the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board while creating the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, a type 1 state agency within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs with more power to oversee and regulate the marijuana industry in Michigan, both legal and medical. Advocates believe this will bring both sectors of the marijuana industry more in line with each other.

“This executive order will eliminate inefficiencies that have made it difficult to meet the needs of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients,” Whitmer said in an article by Michigan Radio. “All elements of (the new marijuana regulatory agency) have been designed to serve and better protect Michigan residents, and I’m eager to have a unified effort across state departments to make sure this process runs effectively and efficiently.”

According to figures provided by the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, 599 license applications had been submitted, but just 121 had been approved by the now-dissolved Medical Marijuana Licensing Board as of March 1, and 105 have paid their regulatory assessment and been issued licenses.

The department began accepting applications Dec. 15, 2017. Medical marijuana patients have complained that the lack of licensed facilities has created a shortage of product, making it difficult for them to obtain their medicine.

In January, a shortage of lab-tested marijuana from commercial grow operations – caused by the slow process of approving licenses – forced medical marijuana provisioning centers to obtain marijuana from caregivers. Eventually that led to a series of state-regulated recalls of marijuana products sold at dispensaries in Detroit and Kalamazoo after failing lab tests for mold and bacteria. An earlier recall in Lansing involved contaminated product as well.

The Cannabis Industry Association said Whitmer’s decision to restructure the regulatory process ensures fairness in the decision-making process.

“We’re fully supportive of the governor’s decision,” said Robin Schneider, association executive director. “This will streamline the licensing process and ensure it is fair. We have full faith in the professional staff at the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and LARA to do their jobs and create a safe and well-regulated market.”

Michigan voters approved legal use of marijuana by adults in November. Regulations concerning sale and taxation of legal marijuana are currently being developed. Officials hope to have the new regulations in place by December. Until regulations are effective, commercial sale of recreational marijuana is still outlawed.

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