Seventy-two provisioning centers waiting on a state license to operate were ordered to close on Jan. 1, prompting anxious calls from medical marijuana patients looking for safe access to meds. The setback lasted two weeks before Gov. Gretchen Whitmer stepped in to request an extension until March 31. The Medical Marihuana Licensing Board (MMLB) unanimously agreed, allowing existing unlicensed businesses to stay open and also buy product from registered caregivers (instead of requiring the supply to come from state-licensed growing facilities). The newly formed Michigan Cannabis Industry Association praised the move, but the uncertainty clearly shows a marijuana regulatory program still experiencing growing pains.
More than 100 retail cannabis stores are now operating statewide (the number once reached 300) as Bridge Magazine reports the Whitmer administration brings a new attitude toward the industry. It’s a welcome change for patient-rights supporters after enduring eight years of Bill Schuette and Rick Snyder.
Slowly but surely, the number of licensed medical facilities — which will be a prerequisite for recreational licenses — continues to grow. At its Jan. 16 meeting, the MMLB approved five additional licenses, bringing the total number of licensed facilities (growers, retail stores, testing facilities, transporters and processors) to 104. In West Michigan, provisioning centers have been approved in Battle Creek, Tekonsha, Kalamazoo, Breedsville and Bangor. The South Bend Tribune reports that the Niles City Council has also voted to allow up to four provisioning centers, pending state approval.
Still, dozens more communities aren’t putting out the welcome mat. MLive reported in early January that at least 80 communities have banned or plan to ban facilities following last year’s vote to legalize recreational marijuana. According to MLive’s map, the city of Grand Rapids is an island of support for licensed facilities, while all adjacent municipalities are moving to block them.
Meanwhile, state regulators are keeping a watchful eye on products reaching the market. The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs issued four product recalls in January for medical cannabis that “failed laboratory testing.” The latest products recalled were sold at a Ypsilanti provisioning center. A statewide coalition representing testing labs has reportedly called on state officials to reverse a recent decision allowing for sales of untested products, which requires customers to sign a waiver.
On the legislative front, the state Bureau of Marijuana Regulation has published a handy guide of laws passed late last year affecting the industry. They include allowing certain licensees to handle and process industrial hemp and exempting some business owners from more rigorous financial background checks if they have a small ownership stake in the company.
Last month, we reported on some creative business ventures gifting recreational cannabis if customers purchased a bag of munchies. A Ypsilanti business is expanding on the concept while apparently promoting literacy. BlazeMichigan has a variety of packages ranging from $65 to $400 that includes pot gifts with the purchase of used books.
— Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz