The first meeting of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Board was held last month on the 26th of June. Nearly 200 attorneys, medical marijuana advocates, business owners, and patients packed the G. Mennen Williams Auditorium in Lansing, Michigan. Yet, there were far more questions than answers at this first meeting.
One of the primary concerns among those in attendance was what would happen to the existing dispensaries currently operating. Another concern that took precedence was how the state would handle the flood of applications for state licenses.
An attorney from Ann Arbor, Allison Ireton, asked the board to give consideration to allowing existing dispensaries to continue operating while waiting for licensing approval from the state. This would avoid placing undue hardship on patients while waiting for the process to be figured out and for the dispensary to get a license.
There were few answers to these questions. Chairman Rick Johnson and fellow board members were there only to listen to the concerns of the public. Answers would have to wait until later.
Johnson said, “We’re just at the start,” and continued to say, “We want to figure out the best way to issue licenses.”
What Were the Lansing Meeting Expectations?
Medical Marijuana was voted into law in Michigan in 2008, but gray areas have led to legal battles, meaning that many of the currently operating dispensaries are operating illegally.
The regulatory functions that came up at the first meeting were licensing, investigation and enforcement of growers, processors, transporters, provisioning centers, and safety compliance facilities.
Some people were not happy with the appointment of certain board members, one of them ex-law enforcement whom some say has a bias against marijuana. That board member, Donald Bailey, said that he believes cannabis should be under the control of law enforcement.
To quote Bailey: “The high amounts of THC found in modern marijuana should be the reason” that regulations are improved. Bailey also believes that the higher the amount of THC in marijuana, the more likely a person would be to “behave inappropriately.”
In what some are saying is a $700 million a year industry, Michigan is looking to cash in on the tax revenues that can be gained by streamlining and regulating the industry. Because of the amount of money that could potentially be involved, board members are expected to submit financial disclosure forms under the law passed last year. Though, it remains unclear how much of this would be made public. Some of the information is to be submitted directly to the governor’s office. The office of the governor is exempt from the Michigan Freedom of Information Act.
The Current Illegal Status of Marijuana Dispensaries
Cannabis like vaporizers has always been a sensitive subject, while many of the current dispensaries are operating illegally, they are still the primary source of medical marijuana for many of the state’s patients. Allowing these dispensaries to continue operating while the licensing and regulatory board gets things figured out is imperative and on the minds of many of the people attending the first meeting.
It needs to be emphasized that this first meeting was a sounding board. The purpose was so that the board could hear the concerns and the suggestions of the public. While there were few answers to the questions posed, it is evident that the board does want the hundreds of patients, doctors, advocates, and business owners all to have their say and have their concerns heard.
Under the current law, the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation must have licensing applications available by December 15, 2017.
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