Dozens of Michigan medical pot shops are threatened with closure in 25 days if they don't get licensed, ending a series of reprieves for medical marijuana facilities were allowed to operate temporarily.

The deadline for the approximately 50 facilities to get a license or close their doors is March 31, but the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is proposing some measures to sidestep any shortages the closures could create.

The proposed measures to be considered by the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board at its March 21 meeting would allow growers or processors to continue to take and sell caregiver product. But the facilities would be required to test the product and enter it into the state monitoring system before sale.

The order also would allow provisioning centers to sell caregiver medical marijuana the centers had obtained prior to March 31, but require a signed waiver if the facilities are selling untested medical marijuana.

“Our ongoing discussions with medical marijuana stakeholders have demonstrated that this is the right thing to do in order to provide for continued patient access while ensuring that only tested products are being distributed,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a Wednesday statement.

The rules would essentially require caregiver marijuana to enter the market further down the supply chain at the grower/processor level, ensuring that it is tested by the time the medical marijuana is obtained by the provision centers.  

“It creates a fair and competitive environment for licensed facilities and allows tested caregiver product to help maintain a sufficient supply until the licensed growers are fully online,” Bureau of Marijuana Regulation Director Andrew Brisbo said.

The LARA recommendation comes less than a week after Whitmer issued an executive order abolishing the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board and creating the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to oversee the medical and recreational marijuana markets. The order does not take effect until April 30.

Marijuana organizations in Michigan supported the measures announced Wednesday, noting that the testing requirement for caregiver product at the grower/processor level would ensure appropriate standards for the product.

“Treating caregiver product in the same manner as any other cannabis in the regulated market keeps public health and safety at the forefront of this matter while ensuring patients have access to medicine they need,” the Great Lakes Cannabis Chamber of Commerce said in a statement.

The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association agreed, but pushed back on the March 31 closure of temporarily operating facilities, of which the licensing board has been “slow to vet and approve.” The state should find a way to fast-track the applications, said Josh Hovey, an association spokesman.

“It is critical that the licensing board review and approve as many applicants as possible at its upcoming meeting,” Hovey said in a statement. “Even then, there will be applications that won’t be heard in time and businesses left disenfranchised.”

The state has approved licenses for 121 facilities, more than 100 of which have paid their licensing fees and are officially licensed.

The deadline for temporarily operating medical marijuana facilities has been a moving target over the past year.

More than 200 medical marijuana facilities initially applied by Feb. 15, 2018 to continue operating while seeking licenses and were given a deadline to obtain those licenses by June 15, 2018. The deadline was later pushed back to Sept. 15, then Dec. 15 by court order, then back to Oct. 31, then Jan. 1, then March 31.

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