Feds investigate ex-House Speaker Johnson for bribery in pot licensing

Medical pot shops slow to complete applications despite looming deadline

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
In this Tuesday, Oct. 2, 2018, photo, a clerk reaches for a container of marijuana buds for a customer at Utopia Gardens, a medical marijuana dispensary, in Detroit. Michigan and North Dakota, where voters previously authorized medical marijuana, will decide now if the drug should be legal for any adult 21 and older. They would become the 10th and 11th states to legalize so-called recreational marijuana since 2012.

Lansing — Despite a looming Oct. 31 licensing deadline, medical marijuana business applicants aren’t responding in a timely manner to requests for more information, according to Bureau of Medical Marihuana Director Andrew Brisbo.

The board on Thursday considered nearly 60 applications for prequalification or licensure, 15 fewer than the applications considered at the board’s September meeting.

The delay from some businesses may be due to a perception that the deadline will be pushed back again, Brisbo said, or an attempt to operate as long as possible under a temporary license, which is cheaper than bringing a facility into compliance with new licensing requirements.

“That’s a dangerous game to play,” Brisbo said. “If they want to achieve licensure by the deadline, now is the time.

Existing pot businesses have until the end of the month to complete their licensing applications and shouldn’t waste time in submitting required materials to the state, Brisbo said.

LARA will soon begin to mark some of the more than 700 initial applications it received as denied, withdrawn or inactive to clarify the agency's workload. 

"It's revealing itself more and more that not everyone who applied for licensure had the intention of following through and becoming licensed," said LARA spokesman David Harns. 

A second meeting Oct. 29 will be the last chance for businesses currently operating to get licensed or begin receiving cease and desist letters after Oct. 31.

Brisbo said it's not clear how many medical marijuana businesses would be forced to close at the Oct. 31 deadline.

More than 200 medical marijuana shops applied by Feb. 15 to continue operating while proceeding through the licensing process. They were allowed to continue operating through June 15, but that deadline was moved to Sept. 15, then Dec. 15 by court order, then back to Oct. 31 by the department.

Businesses that receive licensure approvals Oct. 29 will have the chance to get their licenses by Oct. 31, then have 30 days to record, tag or package all marijuana as required by the new state tracking system. After those 30 days, any marijuana not obtained through a licensed channel must be destroyed.

Prior to Thursday's medical marijuana meeting, licensing totals included 19 provisioning centers, three secure transporters, seven grow operations, four processors and  four testing facilities.

There was some concern among board members and people in the audience Thursday about the shortage of transporters and testing facilities, and how it would affect the newly licensed market starting in November.

“With 83 counties throughout the state, Oct. 31 looms as a gigantic failure,” said Rick Thompson, editor and publisher of the Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. “…That creates a problem for patients in Michigan.”

For others, the situation didn’t seem so dire. Secure transporter Lelantos is based out of Chesaning and has transporters ready to meet the needs of facilities throughout the state when the new industry comes online, said managing partner Tim Schuler.

“We believe that they just need to rip the Band-Aid off and begin this new supply chain,” Schuler said.


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