Monday, 24 June 2019 11:40

Potshots: July 2019

Written by  Andy Balaskovitz
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Alas, retail medical marijuana shops are on the rise in West Michigan. On June 21, Park Place Provisionary formally opened in a refurbished commercial space near Seaway Drive in Muskegon. It’s the first of what advocates hope is a cannabis-driven revitalization in the city’s medical marijuana overlay district, an area that in recent years has taken to overgrown lots and abandoned buildings. 

The license is held by Agri-Med LLC, which also has been approved for a dispensary in Nunica. Owner Greg Maki touts the company as locally owned, a selling point for activists concerned about deep-pocketed out-of-state investors as is the case in Grand Rapids.

The state has also approved provisioning center licenses in Douglas, Breedsville, Bangor and two in Kalamazoo. With more local storefronts benefitting patient access, let’s hope the supply chain catches up soon to keep costs low.

According to the latest bulletin from the state Marijuana Regulatory Agency, Michigan has issued licenses statewide for 77 growers and 107 provisioning centers (13 with home delivery). Since Gov. Whitmer disbanded a contentious licensing panel in April, the state has steadily picked up the pace in issuing licenses.

The cannabis-friendly governor offered further support in June when she joined a bipartisan coalition of 19 governors calling on Congress to pass the Secure and Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act, which would give businesses legal cover in states where pot is legal.

“There is an inherent danger for businesses operating an all-cash business because financial institutions are unable to accept the risks and penalties associated with providing service to this industry under current law,” Whitmer said.

At the annual Mackinac Policy Conference in late May, Whitmer also reportedly sought to debunk the notion that cannabis tax revenue could help pay for the state’s abhorrent roads. Whitmer proclaimed “every man, woman and child” would have to smoke about $2,500 of marijuana a month to meet the state’s $2.5 billion need. Michigan Advance reporter and former Revue Juggalo correspondent Nick Manes tweeted Whitmer’s comments, receiving a flurry of responses taking it as a challenge.

“At that level, no one is going to care about the damn roads,” Whitmer said.

In the inaugural edition of Potshots late last year, we noted former Senate Majority Leader and “known buzzkill” Arlan Meekhof’s failed attempt to reign in the state’s newly approved recreational marijuana law. 

Meekhof, who helped write the state’s medical marijuana regulations, was caught courting favor this year with the former licensing board while representing applicants. This is illegal, notes Craig Mauger of the Michigan Campaign Finance Network.

“The behind-the-scenes communications raise questions about Meekhof’s handling of marijuana legislation while he was in office … and Michigan’s lax ethics laws,” Mauger writes.

Meekhof’s successor, Mike Shirkey, was part of the failed effort to adopt and amend the citizen initiative before it went to voters. Thankfully, Shirkey was in the minority and voters had the final say. But last month, Shirkey held his line, claiming in an interview on WWJ-AM that there will be “serious voters remorse” in about five years over passing it. 

Here’s an alternative prediction: In five years, Michigan will be seen as a pioneer for passing the first recreational marijuana initiative in the Midwest. A majority of states in the Great Lakes region will have followed suit (Detroit Metro Times columnist Larry Gabriel says Michigan already risks losing business to Illinois). Cannabis is ingrained in the cultural fabric. And Shirkey will still be yelling at the rain. How shocking for Republicans to be so out of touch on this issue.

Here’s a few more quick hits that caught our attention this month:

• Kroger Co., the nation’s largest grocer, will begin selling cannabidiol-infused products at 92 stores across Michigan. As the latest sign of the exploding CBD market, Kroger joins CVS and Walgreens in selling the product.

• A Detroit-area woman with a rare form of leukemia is suing the state in federal court after she lost access to a particularly effective form of oil, known as Rick Simpson Oil, MLive reports. Her attorneys say a state policy that ended caregiver sales to dispensaries has made the oil unavailable.

• After the Grand Haven City Council approved an ordinance in April allowing medical marijuana establishments, the city’s Planning Commission in the coming months will review where they can be located, according to the Grand Haven Tribune. Some commissioners aren’t ruling out allowing dispensaries in the downtown. 

— Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz

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