Board reopens medical pot shops, but warns them to 'get in gear'

Beth LeBlanc
The Detroit News
Marijuana for sales inside a Detroit marijuana dispensary. (David Guralnick / The Detroit News)

Lansing — The Michigan Medical Marihuana Board voted unanimously Wednesday to allow temporarily operating facilities to reopen and licensed facilities to purchase marijuana from caregivers through March 31.

The resolution is expected to help satisfy a shortage in the burgeoning medical marijuana industry, but the fifth extension of the deadline for temporary facilities came with a warning.

By March 31, the state should have a “complete, licensed, regulated” medical marijuana industry, said board Chairman Rick Johnson.

“To all of you that are getting a new licensed or have gotten a new license, get in gear and get this stuff produced for the patients because we’re not gonna stand by and not allow them to be taken care of,” Johnson said.

Board member Donald Bailey voiced some concern about the extension since it allowed unlicensed facilities a share in the licensed market, creating a competitive disadvantage for the licensed facilities already engaged in business.

“...Commerce is what we’re talking about, and that’s the real issue at hand,” Bailey said. “It seems unfair to (licensed facilities) that we’re allowing (unlicensed facilities) to compete for market share, for unlicensed sales.”

Board member Vivian Pickard said the issue was about more than a commerce.

“This resolution really takes us back to the intent of the law and that is to get medicine into the hands of the people,” Pickard said.

The deadline extension was recommended by the state Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and supported by Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Orlene Hawks.

The department’s resolution allows temporarily operating facilities — estimated to be about 70 businesses — to stay open through March 31 while seeking licenses without risking their state licensing status.

The resolution also lets provisioning centers, growers and processors purchase marijuana from patient caregivers and temporarily operating facilities through the end of March.

Several conditions are placed on the allowances, including a caveat that requires written patient consent upon purchase of medical marijuana that didn’t originate with a licensed facility.

The extension came as concerns mounted statewide about shortages in the medical marijuana industry as growing, processing and testing facilities are brought into the market. The supply shortage closed all medical marijuana shops in Lansing and left sparse inventory at a longstanding Ann Arbor provisioning center.  

More than 200 medical marijuana shops applied by Feb. 15, 2018, to continue operating while seeking licenses and were given a deadline to obtain those licenses by June 15. But that deadline was later pushed to Sept. 15, then Dec. 15 by court order, then back to Oct. 31 by the department and then Jan. 1 through an agreement with the city of Lansing.

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