Something rotten is going on in the state of Michigan. Lansing, more specifically.
In spite of all the amazing benefits of legalizing recreational marijuana, working out all of the logistical and bureaucratic crap hasn’t gone well for Michigan.
To be fair, no state has been immune to a variety of problems that come with legalizing pot.
But the latest move by Whitmer’s new state Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) last week has many wondering, will licensed dispensaries be able to survive?
What the MRA Decided
Opening a dispensary is tough enough.
But now, for some reason (i.e. money interests perhaps?), the MRA made the decision to “immediately” ban provisioning centers from buying marijuana from any of the over 41,000 state-approved caregivers.
The move feels, for lack of a more technical term, bone-headed.
Caregivers have been the primary source for medical cannabis. And their patients trust them. After all, knowing the source of one’s medicine is priceless.
And speaking of priceless, caregiver marijuana is far more affordable. This is especially pertinent to those who rely on medical marijuana to deal with serious conditions like MS and cancer.
But now, dispensaries must purchase all marijuana products from any of the roughly 20 state-licensed corporate growers and processors. And by all, they mean ALL. This includes everything from flower and hash to edibles and concentrates.
“It is now very difficult for provisioning centers to not only remain competitive but to give patients products at a competitive price,” says Evan Pilot, financial controller of The REEF. “I truly think some of these fully licensed businesses that have done everything right are going to shut down.”
And this from an employee at the The REEF – one of the largest and most highly respected dispensaries in Michigan.
So What Does This Mean?
Almost certainly a victory for the black market.
“Licensed dispensaries are going to go out of business,” says attorney Michelle Donovan says. Donovan is a lawyer for Butzel Long who sued Michigan over this issue. “They aren’t going to compete with the black market. The giant growers don’t have the products that patients want.”
This last point is especially poignant.
Rather than focusing on ointments, edibles, tinctures, cannabinoids and concentrates – the products of choice for many of the state’s 293,000 medical marijuana cardholders – corporate growers are all about the bud.
So what’s a caregiver to do?
Join all the others in flooding the black market. In fact, they’ll be in good company with the dozens of illegal delivery services that have popped up as a result of Lansing not enforcing a law that was supposed to create a safe, regulated system.
State regulators seem to be discouraging cardholders from getting their cannabis from dispensaries. These are businesses which pay state sales tax, regulatory overhead costs for testing and labeling, and hefty licensing and attorney fees.
What the MRA Has to Say
In the spirit of viewing both sides of the coin, we’ll address what drove state regulators to this decision to switch to corporate growers. (Hint: the word “corporate” speaks volumes.)
They claim that their interest is to “protect the health and safety of the public” because cannabis products from growers are required to be tested for contaminants.
Okay. But contaminants have never been a problem with caregiver product.
They also insist that corporate growers and dispensaries have a veritable wealth of this tested cannabis available. Like a Scrooge McDuck room’s worth. But their insistence comes with no records to cake up such claims. So there’s that.
It all comes back down to this question:
Will Licensed Dispensaries Be Able to Survive?
As cannabis marketing and public relations specialists, we believe in the essential services that dispensaries provide.
At this point, we can only hope that the answer to the question of will licensed dispensaries be able to survive this mess is YES.
They’ve proven resilient in the past.
But it’s disappointing that the new The Marijuana Regulatory Agency is putting corporate interests before patient interests.
At least, that’s sure how it seems.