Hello, Cannabis Lovers and Bloggers alike! Welcome to our second edition of DabberGirl’s Discussions! Last time we discussed my place in the industry and a little bit of what I’ve personally done! In this Blog, we’re going to discuss Legalization, Medical Regulations and how the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board has been handling it all here in Michigan!
How Marihuana Became Legal in Michigan
First, let’s start with a little background information, shall we? Michigan first legalized Medical Marihuana back in 2008 with a very relaxed set of rules/laws to follow, known as the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA). Basically, you must have your Medical Marihuana Patient Card to possess cannabis, basic carry and consumption laws, and a caregiver system that allowed patients access to their medicine through a designated caregiver of their choosing, which however needs documentation through the state. During this time there really weren’t any laws that said you could or could not have a dispensary. They just fell under the “caregiver” category, if any category at all!
Within a year, Dispensaries (Now only legally allowed to be known as “Provisioning Centers” in Michigan as of 2018) started popping up all over the state! Because the MMMA of ‘08 was so poorly conceived and written on such a basic level, there was nothing “illegal” about their operations under the state law. However, after a few years of federal backlash and comments from feds about how even though they recognize the state’s ability to legalize medically at that level, dispensaries went against that ruling. Then a Court of Appeals ruled against Medical Marihuana Dispensaries in The State vs. McQueen, which only further pushed the federal government to intervene when they felt the state was unable to keep the legalization at a state level. And so, the raids began.
A Waiting Game for Dispensaries
Although they lived in fear, certain parts of the MMMA did protect dispensaries, as long as they weren’t mishandling the medical marijuana or weren’t in technical violation of the law. The caregiver system did however put in place acts that would allow caregivers to have a “collective” in which multiple caregivers provided to multiple patients. It was still a very gray area though; there was nothing that specifically stated that dispensaries were lawful. Overtime shops that hadn’t been raided/shut down after being raided, settled in for what hopefully would be the “long haul!” Awaiting what would be the start of regulations. This continued for years before anything legally was done to regulate these shops and the products in and out of them. Unfortunately, what these shops didn’t know, it was going to be a lot more than just waiting.
In 2016 (8 years later), Governor Snyder signed a law clarifying and expanding Medical Marijuana in Michigan. The first laws set forth would be known as the “Medical Marijuana Facilities Act” or MMFLA, as we Michiganders have come to know it as which has changed time and time again as lawmakers work to finally get it together after almost a decade at this point. There were many rules put into place under that act that created what we call a “Green Zone” which says whether or not you’re in an area that is legal to dispense Medical Marihuana. This “Green Zone” would subject almost 75% of dispensaries to possible closure. After many court appeals and lawyers doing what they do best, those requirements changed but unfortunately most places were already shut down due to continuous operation “outside” of what was initially set as the Green Zone at the time and would not be allowed to reapply if they weren’t already in a appeals process. After finalizing the green zone, applications were being taken even though there was yet to be a Licensing Board even elected. Where did they go you ask? If there was no one even in place to make the notion of or lawfully decide whether or not they were compliant with state law? Good Question! Most of us still do not know. I would imagine in the trash, considering the number of times the MMFLA has been changed.
Slow Licenses Stall Growers and Dispensaries Businesses
Fast forward to September 2017, when the state no longer legally had a choice to continue to “dilly dally” any longer! Licenses started being filed in December and would be put forth in front of an actual board, that was finally fully in place! There have been hundreds of submissions over the last 11 months! But, the Board of Medical Marijuana Regulations has had no issue being very strict on applicants on top of requiring a ridiculous amount of liquid assets. This is causing a lot of issues for the industry and will only further continue as small business owners who care about their patients are vetted out for not having enough money or “ability” as the BMR likes to call it. Currently there are more provisioning centers in the appeals processed than have been approved, but fortunately for growers, processors, labs and transport, that is not the same case. Although too much is still required from them, in my opinion, the ratio of growers, processors, etc. getting approved vs. provisioning centers is like 5:1. But because of the requirements, there are a lot fewer people applying that would supply meds than provisioning center owners because they haven’t made nearly as much money over time. Which is now causing a dilemma where provisioning centers are having to shut down because they have no meds to supply because they’re not allowed to sell the unlicensed product in their shops and not enough suppliers have applied! Fortunately, the BMR (board of marihuana regulations) has adopted an “emergency rules” plan, allowing unlicensed suppliers to continue to supply provisioning centers until January 2019 in hopes that more suppliers will be approved and shops won’t have to close. We will see how this goes.
Legalization Details Face Political Shenanigans
Now, in December of 2018, when recreational marihuana becomes legal in Michigan, what some think of as a monumental day for the cannabis community/industry, others (like myself) know trouble lurks right around the corner! As politicians have shown throughout time, they just wanna make money. So, of course, as I predicted, just a few days after passing the recreational prop 1 law, or as our regulatory office calls it “adult use,” politicians are already getting to work to change wording and rules within the law! Although this did not become public knowledge until days later, I’m sure that was a plan they’ve had for months now. Forcing the people to vote on something because they believe it is for the greater good of the community, only to change what will affect us the most is awful. This is why for years now I’ve STRESSED to everyone who plans to vote to first read and re-read everything that has been listed under the law and to do a personal investigation into who and what you are voting for! An uneducated vote is worse than not voting at all! So, for now, we will see what bills they can change and just how it will affect the community and industry.
Thanks for joining this discussion! Can’t wait to give everyone an update on how things are going after all of these new changes being made here in the great state of Michigan!