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Insights From Medical Marihuana Licensing Board Public Meeting: Dispensaries Are Not Ordered to Shut Down (Yet); Rulemaking Process Continues, as Working Groups Are Announced

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Insights From Medical Marihuana Licensing Board Public Meeting: Dispensaries Are Not Ordered to Shut Down (Yet); Rulemaking Process Continues, as Working Groups Are Announced

This afternoon, the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board held its second public meeting. Unlike its first meeting, which provided more questions than answers, today both the Board and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) provided important insights.

The first topic addressed initially left the audience uneasy. Board member Don Bailey began the meeting by reiterating that current dispensary owners, as well as growers and processers assisting them, are operating in violation of Michigan law. He further stated his view that the continued operation of these facilities is fundamentally unfair to those seeking to enter the industry anew once the application process opens up on December 15, 2017. To remedy these problems, Mr. Bailey moved that all existing dispensaries be given until Labor Day to close—and that any who do not comply with this mandate be made ineligible to receive a state license.

Mr. Bailey’s motion was tabled until the end of the meeting, so that the Board could hear from the public. And the public’s statements seemed to have an impact. Although Board member Vivian Pickard initially sided with Mr. Bailey (while recommending that dispensaries be given a couple of additional weeks to wind down their operations), at the end of the meeting she stated that the public had raised many important points, and that she could not definitively say whether the dispensaries should be shut down. Echoing a motion made earlier in the meeting by Board member David LaMontaine, she asked that LARA provide its recommendation, with the Board to revisit the issue at its next public meeting on October 12. Although Mr. Bailey disagreed with this strategy, his request that the dispensaries be ordered to shut down did not have the votes at this time, although Chairman Rick Johnson warned those in the audience that such a result could be inevitable.

Next, Board member David LaMontaine offered two motions that were adopted unanimously:

  • First, the Board asked LARA to present a plan to the Board on how the State is to transition from the current system of dispensaries to the new licensed framework.
  • Second, the Board asked LARA to reach out to municipalities to identify all current dispensaries in the State and determine which of these intend to seek licenses.

Next, Andrew Brisbo, Director of LARA’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (“BMMR”) addressed the Board. Mr. Brisbo started by observing that the Board cannot simply make policy by resolution, but needs to work in consultation with LARA. He then provided a brief update on the statewide seed-to-sale monitoring system, Franwell’s Metrc. Metrc has now established a new website to provide Michigan-specific information on its system. Additionally, Mr. Brisbo announced that in November, LARA will do public “roadshows” across the state to both explain the Metrc system and provide information about the licensing process.

Sarah Hernandez of LARA then provided an update on the mechanics of the application process itself. The State will offer an online application system, to be up and running for the December 15 application date. Specifics on when it will be operational were not available, however.

Finally, LARA Deputy Director Colleen Curtis provided an update on the rulemaking process itself. Ms. Curtis made it glaringly obvious that the State will have emergency rules for the initial application stage. She also announced that for the final, permanent rules, LARA will be forming “work groups” to gather information and receive feedback on five separate topics that the Department must address through the rulemaking process. Each of the five work groups will be comprised of one Board member, as well as members of the public who are knowledgeable in the subject matter. The work groups, and the Board member assigned to the work groups, are as follows:

  • Growers: Vivian Pickard;
  • Processors: Rick Johnson;
  • Safety Compliance: Nichole Cover;
  • Provisioning: Don Bailey; and
  • Secure Transporters: David LaMontaine

Those interested in applying to serve on the work groups may send an email to the Department outlining their contact information, qualifications, and the work group they are interested in serving on by September 5, 2017, at 9 a.m. Work group selections will be made by September 12. Ms. Curtis indicated that additional details regarding the work group process will be made known on the Department’s website.

With all of these additional developments announced, and the application date nearing, the pace is picking up. Please check back with Dykema’s Cannabis Law Blog for further updates, or contact your Dykema attorney with any questions.