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Lansing — The deadline for existing medical marijuana businesses to obtain state licensing or risk repercussion has been extended by three months.

The Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs on Wednesday extended the deadline under which existing businesses could operate without a license from June 15 to Sept. 15.

“Extending the deadline to Sept. 15th will make sure that this law is implemented correctly and assure that potential licensees are thoroughly reviewed,” LARA Director Shelly Edgerton said in a statement. “It is important that we ensure that medical marijuana patients have continued access to their medicine.”

License applicants who operated existing businesses and submitted their applications by Feb. 15 had faced a June 15 deadline to get licensed or risk their unlicensed status affecting their ability to obtain a license.

The extended deadline of Sept. 15 allows the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation more time to investigate and authorize applications from hundreds of entrepreneurs seeking to participate in the industry.

Michael D. Stein, a Bloomfield Hills lawyer who represents roughly 30 medical marijuana entrepreneurs seeking licenses, said several of his clients would have been affected by the June 15 deadline. The extension is a relief for both business owners and patients.

Stein hopes the new Sept. 15 deadline signals a finish line for the state’s review process.

“Nobody wants to keep kicking the can down the road,” Stein said. “What this kind of indicates to me is that they think they’re going to get through those people within the next three months. I hope that’s the case.”

Rhory Gould, CEO for Arborside, said the application process has been stressful for his Ann Arbor provisioning center, which serves about 200 people daily.

The provisioning center has been around for eight years, Gould said, and has received approvals from the city of Ann Arbor. While the center waits on word regarding its state application, the deadline extension relieves some of the stress involved in the process.

“Now, because of this, the patients won’t have to go on to the black market,” Gould said.

The board has given zero licenses so far, but has approved 12 out of nearly 460 pre-qualification applications filed since December. Businesses also must pass a facility inspection to get licenses.

Applicants with existing facilities have worried about the slow pace as the deadline loomed and their businesses risked operating without the state's blessing. Other applicants said the delays stalled major facility or equipment investments.

Entrepreneurs have paid a $6,000 application fee to pursue licenses under a 2016 law that set up a medical marijuana system in which upstanding business owners would be required to meet benchmarks that included high “moral character, integrity and reputation.”

The Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation is processing hundreds of lengthy applications that are often more than 1,000 pages long. The 10-stage application process can take months and includes a required review by a contract investigation firm and an intelligence work-up by the Michigan State Police.

eleblanc@detroitnews.com

(517) 371-3661

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