- Update on the first meeting of the newly formed Marijuana Regulatory Agency.
- The agency’s approval rate has doubled from that of the MMLB.
- Patient access to marijuana products is still a huge problem.
On March 1, 2019, Governor Whitmer signed Executive Order 2019-7 abolishing the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (MMLB). The Executive Order also created the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) and put Michigan’s cannabis regulation under the full jurisdiction of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA). In a press release regarding the Order, Governor Whitmer said:
“This executive order will eliminate inefficiencies that have made it difficult to meet the needs of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients. All elements of this 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. I appreciate the productive input I’ve received on this important issue, including from Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey.”
The MMLB held their final meeting on April 25, 2019, and the Agency took full control of marijuana regulation on May 1, 2019.
The New Process
The MRA is required by statute to hold at least 4 meetings per year. The first meeting of the newly formed agency was yesterday morning in Lansing. There seemed to be a mixed response. Most people are thrilled not to see the MMLB anymore and everyone hopes to see the licensing process move more quickly. Patient access (or a lack thereof) is still a huge issue. Current and former caregivers are not pleased with the capitalization requirements for facility licensing. They want to grow into this business and serve more than 5 patients. Some stated that they wish more people who are more involved in the industry (growers, recreational or medical users, etc.) were the ones regulating. Here’s a summary of what transpired at the meeting.
The Marijuana Regulatory Agency’s Executive Director, Andrew Brisbo, stood up first to give us an introduction to the Agency. Brisbo stated that the MRA’s mission is to “establish Michigan as the national model for a regulatory program that stimulates business growth while ensuring safe consumer access to marijuana”. They claim to want the Agency to be transparent and will continue to live stream all meetings. In addition to this, they intend to coincide meetings with marijuana work groups and have meetings throughout the state, not just in Lansing as we saw with the Board. Brisbo stated that the MRA is working with the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development to promulgate rules for hemp production; both regarding the statutes laid out in the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act (MRTMA) and the Industrial Hemp Research Act.
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Program
The Customer Service Manager for the medical marijuana program gave an update on the program’s growth. As of the meeting, there are 287,094 patients and 40,120 designated caregivers in the state. To help with the high volume of applications for patient registry cards, the state began accepting online applications in October of 2018. As of May 1, 2019, they are now offering temporary cards when you apply online. For more information on this, you can visit the MMMP website HERE. There has been some feedback that the online process is not very user friendly, so hopefully it will be improved.
The Licensing Division Director and gave an update on the agency’s process. They’ve divided the application process into three sections
- Intake – they provide customer service to applicants who have or are preparing to submit their applications. They also accept and organize applications.
- Medical facility licensing – this section processes and reviews the applications, providing background checks and performing any necessary investigations and inspections.
- Adult-use facility licensing – will perform the same tasks as section 2 once adult-use applications become available.
The Licensing Division Director also gave an update on statistics year-to-date for the fiscal year 2019 (which began October 1, 2019). In that time, the state has processed 644 prequalification applications and 220 state operating license applications. Of those processed applications, 180 state operating licenses have been approved. Since the MRA took over May 1, 2019, the agency has processed 173 prequalification applications and 40 state operating license applications. 40 state operating licenses have been approved. This is a 122.2% monthly average increase in application processing and a 100% monthly average increase of license approval. All of these statistics include denials. The MRA only has one month under its belt, but let’s hope this trend continues! Michigan’s patients deserve access to their medication and Michigan business owners need to stop being bogged down by a slow system.
The update on the rules for adult-use wasn’t quite as exciting as we hoped, basically just a restatement that they plan to issue emergency rules this month and begin taking applications in the fall. The emergency rules will be in place for six months. Hopefully, they are able to promulgate permanent rules in that time to avoid some of the issues surrounding the implementation of the MMFLA. The licensing application for adult-use facilities will be a 2-step process as we’ve seen with medical facilities.
Public Comment, Questions, Useful Info
A lot of comments about patient access were heard. This is a real problem being felt by Michiganders. A provisioning Center owner stated he may be closing his doors because they don’t have any product. A patient called for caregivers to be allowed to continue selling their untested product to provisioning centers to help solve this problem. This is a tricky place for the state. On one hand, licensed facilities are required by law to have all product tested, caregivers are not. On the other hand, there is a huge shortage of flower which hurts patients and makes it difficult for licensed businesses to stay up and running.
A related issue brought up in the public comment is the temporarily operating facility dilemma. Such facilities have been given a legal umbrella to remain open without a state operating license. They’ve been put under this umbrella because patients need access and the state needs to provide that. The problem is that these facilities are not held to the same standards as licensed facilities, which hurts licensed operators that are going above and beyond to stay compliant. The state has been struggling to create a framework so that both the issues of access and accountability can be solved.
The next meeting is scheduled for August 29, 2019, in Detroit. Bricks + Mortar Group will be there and we will report on the proceedings. In the meantime, we will post updates on any regulatory updates put out by the state. LARA released a statement today regarding the meeting. You can read that press release HERE.