If you’ve been reading this blog and/or not living under a rock, then you’re familiar with just how well the whole process of marijuana licensing has been going.
It’s been something that rhymes with flustermuck.
So Whitmer put pen to paper on Friday to sign an executive order that could making things go a bit more smoothly.
Because even “a bit more smoothly” would be a vast improvement over the current state of affairs.
Why Has Marijuana Licensing Been So Tough?
That would take the sort of political analysis for which we simply don’t have the chops.
But here it is in a nutshell:
The marijuana licensing board under LARA was created in 2016 to regulate and tax the medical marijuana market. Its five members were politically appointed by former Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof, R-Grand Haven, former Speaker of the House Tom Leonard, R-Dewitt and Gov. Rick Snyder.
Meekhof went ahead and recommended a former Speaker of the House who was also a Republican, as well as a registered lobbyist. This same guy had also been involved in negotiating the sale of his stake in the lobbying firm to a lobbyist for the medical marijuana industry.
This, of course, raised concerns about whether lobbyists would seek to then curry favor with him through the price paid for the stake in the firm.
In the meantime, Leonard nominated an executive board member of the Police Officers Association of Michigan – which only may connote “marijuana supporter.” It certainly doesn’t scream it.
And our old buddy Snyder figured a pharmacist, the CEO of a consulting firm, and a retired sergeant for the Michigan State Police would be just dreamy as his appointees.
We’re not suggesting that every member of the volunteer five member board is power hungry in their denying applicants licenses. But there were certainly a lot of inconsistencies.
For instance, a minor brush with the law 25 years ago could be grounds for an applicant not getting a license. Even if the charges were dismissed.
And it shouldn’t come as any big surprise that the retired police sergeant has been particularly stringent. He consistently denies people seeking licenses who are registered caregivers.
These caregivers were permitted to grow up to 72 plants for five medical marijuana cardholders. They are supposed to be able to recoup the costs of growing these plants. But the sergeant feels that many of them are profiting beyond those expenses and should therefore be ruled out for getting a license.
The result is that these caregivers who have been the mainstay of the medical marijuana market since 2008 are suddenly unable to get licenses.
What Does Whitmer Propose?
Right now, the number of licensed growers is pretty limited. And since crops take up to six months to grow, licensed dispensaries are justifiably concerned about an impending shortage of product for their patients.
As a result, the state is currently permitting around 60 unlicensed dispensaries to continue to operate. This has been an ongoing game for many months. The dispensaries now have until March 31st to get a license or shut down.
Through her executive order, Whitmer is proposing that a new entity within the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs handle all licensing for both medical and recreational marijuana licensing. It would be called the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. She feels certain that combining the licensing authority under one body will put the kibosh on some of the inefficiencies.
“To avoid licensing delays and to better coordinate varying sources of authority for the enforcement of state law, the administration of state laws relating to marijuana can more effectively and efficiently be administered by a dedicated state agency,” she said in her executive order. In turn, the needs of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients will be better met.
The retired police sergeant feels Whitmer’s order is political payback for marijuana industry lobbyists who supported her campaign. He also lamented that, “Public safety just took a huge hit.”
But Washtenaw County Sheriff Jerry Clayton sees things in a different light. He feels that the new system allows for more predictability. And this will ultimately enhance public safety and keep communities safe.
If the Legislature doesn’t veto the order, Whitmer is expected to appoint a director to run the agency in the coming weeks.
More Efficient Days Ahead?
We can only hope that the Legislature will see the benefits of increasing the efficiency of marijuana licensing.
In the meantime, if you’d like to see increased efficiency in the marketing and promoting of your cannabis business, contact us. We’ll get you moving in the right direction.
And nobody can veto that.