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.
Patients in the state of Michigan with a registered caregiver have been taking advantage of home delivery since 2008. Those who do not have a registered caregiver in the program and use provisioning centers as their point of access will likely have similar options soon. This is great news because for many patients there simply aren’t any local dispensaries operating nearby. Also, there are many cases where a patient is severely ill or suffers from a condition that affects their ability to drive. The fact that caregivers can only supply up to five patients makes it hard for some people to find a grower who can supply them with a steady supply of high-quality medicine. Along with that, some people benefit/prefer using marijuana in different ways outside of its raw form. As a result, this sends many patients to dispensaries so that they can have a large selection of products to choose from.
If you live in Michigan or have looked at the local Weedmaps directory, it is obvious that delivery services have been operating for years. These businesses are hiding in a grey area at best. They can’t claim to be caregivers because they are servicing anybody with a valid medical marijuana license that contacts them. While I’m sure a few have run into some legal trouble, the overall delivery market hasn’t been affected or slowed down. These services are prevalent in metro Detroit and offer reasonable pricing despite their convenience. Patients most likely wouldn’t see any major changes if deliveries become allowed, it would simply provide protection for brick and mortar stores to expand operations outside their store. Unregulated delivery services will probably be cracked down on and be forced to apply for a commercial license or close. This is no guarantee, just what I think is likely to happen considering the closing of all the dispensaries in Detroit lately. By September 15th, all dispensaries who haven’t been awarded a commercial license must close their doors. Unless there is an extension to that date, I think this will be applied to existing delivery services soon. The state hasn’t been too friendly to the medical marijuana businesses that have been operating unregulated for years and I think that trend will continue.
The proposed rules would allow dispensaries to have only one staff member making deliveries at a time. This driver can only make three consecutive stops before returning. In addition, the GPS location of the driver must be tracked and logged by the dispensary. There is also a provision added to the proposal that mentions residents living in a city or township banning dispensaries would still be allowed to receive deliveries. These “dry” communities have accomplished nothing but make medicine less accessible for patients. At least residents will now have legal protection to acquire medicine without leaving their local area. It seems that the state is headed in the right direction establishing permanent rules and providing protections for those looking to deliver medicine to patients. However, I think it could go with a lot less regulation. Making it so existing delivery services have to have a physical storefront and limiting the number of staff that can be conducting deliveries is just unnecessary. Marijuana has been unregulated for years through prohibition and even up until last December when the state began accepting commercial licenses. Those who took all the risks and were the pioneers in the industry are being flushed out by newcomers with lots of capital. It would be nice to see some of the existing delivery services able to continue to build their business and reap some benefits for all the risks they have taken for their patients.
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.
Yesterday was a major victory for patients suffering from a variety of serious diseases in Michigan. People who couldn’t qualify to use marijuana legally either risked prosecution or continued to use less effective pharmecutical drugs. The existing list before the change took effect only included eight conditions. They more than doubled that list by adding 10 new qualifying conditions that a physician can legally recommend marijuana for. The old list included cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, Chron’s disease, Alzheimer’s, chronic pain, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Now protection will be expanded to those suffering from arthritis, autism, ulcerative colitis, inflammatory bowel disease, obsessive-compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, spinal cord injury, Tourette’s syndrome, and colitis. I would expect to see an explosion in the number of registered patients in my state as a result of this change. The number of people who have one of these new conditions is enormous, but many will not take advantage of the expanded coverage.
I think that the most noticeable difference will be an increase in the amount of elderly medical marijuana users. One of the key conditions that now qualifies is arthritis. This disease is more common among the older generation and its addition to the list will likely attract some senior citizens. I also believe that with the success of marijuana legalization across the country and in Canada, more people will be questioning their negative attitude surrounding the plant. When I have visited local dispensaries rarely did I see anyone over the age of 65 in there. However, this is likely because they have registered caregivers that grow or acquire their medicine for them so they don’t have to travel. This age group is generally known for their opposition to drugs that have been illegal their entire lives. Those facing old age are the ones who need cannabis the most and hopefully, these new conditions will lead more elderly patients to try alternative medicine.
There seems to only be positive results when more conditions are allowed to be treated using marijuana. If I were to write the law it wouldn’t be a list of qualifying conditions, but rather discretion would be given to physicians. They should be able to recommend marijuana whenever they feel it could positively benefit their patient. Leaving it up to the government to decide what conditions should qualify doesn’t make sense. Doctors are the ones who have the most knowledge regarding the side effects of diseases and are familiar with each patient’s unique scenario. Either way, there will be a noticeable growth in the economy of medical marijuana businesses in order to meet the demand of more registered patients. More jobs are going to come to the state if recreational marijuana passes in November and now we don’t need to wait until then. Dispensaries and cultivation facilities will need additional help and more new facilities will probably start springing up as well.
Compared to other states medical marijuana programs, Michigan is definitely blessed. Looking at Ohio cities banning home cultivation or other states like Texas only allowing CBD oil for seizures makes our laws feel relaxed. We pretty much lie right in the middle of the spectrum of marijuana enforcement. There are lots of dispensaries to shop from across the state but only in large cities like Detroit, Ann Arbor, Lansing, and a few others. For people who live far away from these areas, their selection is limited to the black market or what they themselves can grow. At least these patients are still being provided protection from the law despite accessibility issues. Ten years down the line I envision Michigan’s marijuana industry to be developed like the west coast currently is. We are just a little behind the marijuana pioneers but still on the right track.
Since the new year has began, I personally have already had to switch dispensaries that I was using due to the new medical marijuana regulations coming into effect. Starting December 15th of last year, the state began accepting applications for the various types of businesses including: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail shops. Retail dispensaries that were operating for years without any problems with local ordinances are now receiving letters ordering them to shut down until they are approved for a new license. According to the Detroit Free Press, over 200 dispensaries in the state have been sent these cease and desist letters.
While the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs claims that the availability of medicine will be unaffected for patients, there are other consequences to this move. Although profitable, opening a dispensary demands an enormous amount of overhead and variable costs. All of these business owners who had invested money in both their property as well as the medicine they had in stock, are going to lose patients during the temporary to permanent closure. This is not right, and if they didn’t want them operating they shouldn’t have ever been given permission. Yes they technically were unregulated businesses, but that was how the system had forced them to operate for years under the protection of local ordinances. Some of these businesses in the past had even gone the lengths of relocating in order to comply with the ridiculous zoning requirements imposed by the city of Detroit. Even playing by the rules doesn’t always guarantee protection of your business in this industry. This transition period of awarding licenses to applicants is supposed to end in June, but at it’s current pace many in the industry are expecting delays.
There are many different opinions on whether this regulation is a good thing for the cannabis community or not. The regulation establishes new taxes for those using it for medical purposes. It also will make a system to track a plants progress from seed form to sale and ensure all products are only produced by licensed commercial cultivators. Personally, I think regulation is not a good thing and it should be left to the already existing large community of cultivators who produce much higher quality cannabis on a small scale. The patient- caregiver system that was established in 2008 when medical cannabis passed in Michigan, is still the backbone of the industry. Dispensaries that are currently existing get their medicine from caregivers or patients, not some 3000 plant facility that machine trims commercial quality bud. It seems inevitable that with regulation small time grows will be undercut by those growing on a large scale.
The dispensary that I choose to visit now for my concentrate and edible needs, is much larger then other collectives I had been a member at. The inventory selection is much larger as well as a higher number of employees working. Larger dispensaries seems to be the trend as the number of operating dispensaries continues to be squeezed by the state government. To this day it remains a risky business plan to enter the “not quite regulated” medical marijuana industry in Michigan. For those looking to get into the trade, it would be best to apply for one of the new licenses and then wait before trying to set up shop during this uncertain time.