Currently, there are several major issues facing the newly regulated medical marijuana industry in Michigan. There have been issues in the past with local ordinances causing many businesses owners to close down shop, but the new regulations are putting a serious strain on the industry as a whole. Very few retail locations have been given a license by the state despite a massive amount of submitted applications. Now anyone without a license that continues to operate may face criminal charges and lose the chance of ever obtaining one in the future. Hundreds of these stores have been operating for years under the approval of their local government. Patients and dispensaries never had any issues existing in an unregulated environment. Marijuana has always been unregulated throughout history, like most things that naturally exist. The argument behind regulation is that patients will know where their medicine is coming from and that it’s not contaminated. Realistically, all the regulations are doing is making it harder for the dispensaries that have been approved to serve nearly 300,000 patients.
Testing for contaminations has been available for patients and dispensaries in Michigan for over 5 years now. PSI labs and Iron labs both offer testing when it comes to potency and the presence of mold or pesticides. One of the dispensaries that I had been using before it closed its doors already mandated all products to be tested by their vendors. So the real reason for regulation is so that the government can not only tax it but also control how and where provisioning centers operate. Not only are dispensary owners and their employees getting screwed while the state takes its time licensing, but patients are also affected. People are piling into the few remaining stores and wait times are becoming outrageous. It doesn’t even matter what day or time of day you decide to pick up some medicine. To make the problem even worse, the state is requiring that the approved dispensaries only obtain products from approved cultivators/processors. Word is spreading that shortages are coming very soon because there are nowhere near enough approved growers to supply the current demand. People who are dependent on these shops for access are probably in a panicked state right now. Judging by the number of people I have seen entering the dispensary, there are a lot of people who don’t have caregivers or any black market contacts.
Many patients including myself, strictly go to these stores for the processed forms of the plant that are harder to find at an affordable price. They always seem to have really great deals on edibles, cartridges, and concentrates. The top quality buds are priced higher than what most growers are offering it for. Plenty of low-mid quality buds can be purchased at a great price for the budget smokers who aren’t as interested in higher potency and stronger flavor. After my last few visits, I think I will simply go without the other concentrated forms of the plant for now as prices will likely rise as the available legal supply dwindles. Waiting for more than 30 minutes just to get in the bud room kinda turned me off as well. We will just have to hope the state starts handing out more licenses in a hurry, or the supply issues will continue to get worse.
Across the great lakes state, cultivation facilities and dispensaries are facing a September 15th deadline to either be approved and licensed by the state or shut down operations. Those who have gained approval from their local officials and have already submitted their applications to the state are extremely worried. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) began accepting applications in December of 2017, but the process to approve businesses is taking a very long time. There have already been two previous deadlines set that were extended before the fast-approaching September 15 cutoff. It seems that the government was not prepared to handle the overwhelming number of applications.
Currently, only 16 applications were given approval out of the 637 submitted for one of the four license types: cultivation, retail, transportation, and processing. Processing refers to businesses that will purchase cannabis from growers and create infused products or extracts like Rick Simpson oil. There seems to be a small number of resources being devoted to inspecting and approving licenses. Luckily, local officials are concerned for patients access to medicine and have been reaching out to Snyder asking for an extension. It’s equally important to support the cannabis pioneers that have invested their life savings into provisioning centers in order to legally help patients find relief. Now, dispensary employees are left to question if they will have their paycheck coming next month or if they will find themselves unemployed. It is crucial that the state responds back quickly so these people aren’t forced to abandon their investments and careers in order to pursue other sources of income.
It almost seems like the officials enjoy causing problems among the medical cannabis community since they can no longer arrest those involved. Why even set a deadline at all for these businesses to get approved? Deny and approve the licenses as they come in and if they have been approved by their local city/township then they should be able to operate until they are given a response. It’s bad enough they are picking and choosing which dispensaries can and can’t operate as they please. Shutting them down before they even get a chance to be evaluated because people created a random date is just wrong. No other industry is facing the same level of regulations and hoops to jump through in order to legally operate. It’s just another example of unnecessary government regulation. The number of stores should be determined by the levels of supply and demand and as a result of certain companies gaining competitive advantages over one another.
There should be some regulation when it comes to advertising and locating next to schools, but not with arbitrary date setting. These businesses would risk losing the chance to secure a license in the future if they operate past the September 15th deadline without being approved. I can’t imagine the level of stress these owners are dealing with right now. They only have two options if the deadline is not extended. Either close temporarily and pray for a license while still paying overhead costs, or close permanently and exit the business. Staying open and risking being raided/closed shouldn’t be considered a valid third option. Criminal charges and no possibility of entering the industry would be the worst possible outcome for a successful marijuana entrepreneur. The next coming weeks are going to be full of uncertainty until a solution is offered by the state.