When Michigan established its commercial cannabis market, the goal was to eliminate bad actors and create an environment that attracts top-notch operators who produce safe, high-quality cannabis products. While the state has made progress on these goals, significant challenges remain that could impede the industry’s growth and success in the coming year.

The lack of enforcement on black market cannabis, meaning illegal, unregulated and/or untested cannabis, has created a public health crisis across Michigan and the United States. So far, there have been two vaping-related deaths in Michigan and 48 in the United States, as well as more than 2,000 vaping-related lung injuries nationwide — the majority of these cases likely caused by illicit vape products featuring additives not typically used by licensed producers.

Michigan residents are getting sick and dying from products purchased from rogue dispensaries that are passing off illegal cannabis products as medicine, yet prosecutors and the state have remained on the sidelines. The lack of enforcement has put patient safety at risk and it’s high time for Michigan to take an aggressive, proactive approach toward thwarting the black market operators who are injuring consumers and delaying the advancement of Michigan’s legal cannabis industry.

For Michigan to be a national leader for safe, high-quality cannabis, the state needs to foster an environment that supports licensed commercial operators. Licensed operators have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in communities across the state and created thousands of jobs. However, the proliferation of illegal dispensaries and home delivery services in Michigan has made it difficult for licensed businesses to effectively operate, and these challenges will continue in 2020 if the state doesn’t take action. 

With recreational marijuana now available, there is no better time to crack down on untested and potentially dangerous cannabis products. Too many rogue operators and fly-by-night dispensaries are profiting from the absence of effective law enforcement, and without a change of course, the problem will only get worse.  

These are crucial decisions Michigan needs to make if we want to encourage a thriving legal cannabis industry. We need to foster and lift up the commercial cannabis market because it is the best mechanism to ensure patients and consumers receive safe and tested cannabis products. It also offers enormous potential in terms of economic opportunities, including millions of dollars of investment staying right here in Michigan and much-needed revenues in local communities across the state.

Patients and customers deserve access to safe, high-quality cannabis products and we at the MCMA stand ready to help Michigan become a leader in patient safety.

Randall Buchman is president of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association and CEO of Emerald Growth Partners/Pleasantrees.

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