By Anthony Sabatella
In what seems as a never-ending rollercoaster, the cannabis industry in Michigan has yet another change to deal with that will affect companies’ ability to stay open and keep cannabis employees working. Oct. 1 was a rough start to the fourth quarter for cannabis owners and workers alike. The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued new emergency administrative rules to continue the implementation of the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA). This comes after receiving updated rules less than three weeks back that allowed temporary operators to stay unaffected by the new rules until Dec. 15, 2018.
The new MMFLA Emergency Rules supersede both the last set of Emergency Rules and Rule 19 in the original Emergency Rules, which allowed temporary authorization of current operators. The new MMFLA Emergency Rules state that all cannabis operators must shut down as of Oct. 31, 2018 unless they are licensed at both the state and local level. This is a complete 180-degree change from the previous version of Emergency Rules that were released to the cannabis industry on Sept. 11. Unfortunately, this is somewhat to be expected, because the only thing from the State of Michigan that has been consistent is inconsistency when it comes to cannabis.
One can only wonder why LARA would need to move back their prior grievance by 45 days. It is possible LARA simply wanted cannabis business owners to no longer generate revenue. It is also possible that LARA wanted to bottleneck the industry’s efforts to gain support to pass Proposal 1 on Nov. 6, which would legalize cannabis for adult use in Michigan. Whatever the answer is, the only people whose voices aren’t being heard are the employees. “This shutdown really hurts,” says Ashley Price, manager at a local provisioning center. “We have a team of employees that have worked tirelessly to become certified budtenders through our training program. Now due to LARA shutting down temporary operators, we are all out our jobs at the end of the month.” Sadly, this is the realistic fallout from governmental over-compliance.
Stark examples of over-compliance riddle the current version of the MMFLA rules, while elsewhere, they offer no guidance or protections at all. Thankfully, LARA’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) allowed for a public forum meeting on Sept. 17, 2018. The meet was held in Lansing near the Michigan State Capitol, where cannabis activists made time from their busy schedule to meet and discuss the proposed rules for the MMFLA. Matt Abel, Executive Director of MiNORML and Senior Partner of Cannabis Counsel, discussed the frivolous limit of six percent limit of THC on cannabis topicals. A Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request has shown that Michigan looked to Oregon, the only state with a limit on topicals, as guidance. “Michigan picked the most restrictive state’s restrictions and selected those limits without any scientific backup,” says Abel.
Echoing the same tune of over-regulation is MMFLA Rule 75, Section 2 discussing the newly imposed 10-ounce monthly purchase for patients as of Sept. 11. Jay Fleming, an independent cannabis consultant, let LARA know that this restriction is short sighted. “It doesn’t make sense to buy from a licensed storefront and divert to the black market. The cost is inflated and between video monitoring, store records, and traceable packaging, there is too much evidence of illicit activity left behind for most criminals’ peace of mind” says Feeley. “While this is unlikely to do much to limit illicit activity, it is bound to deny patients from their doctor recommended medicine.”
All that the industry is asking for is consistency and that every member of our community gets their fair shot. Rarely has this been the case as many industry veterans have been labeled as felons and criminals for providing safe and reasonable access to medicine. These are the same people who have had their livelihoods and passions ripped out from underneath them because of the government’s need to criminalize a harmless plant.
The only way to right the wrongs of the past is to correct them in the future. To transcend above the prior shortcomings of the state, it is now more than ever that we need to come together as one during the final push for cannabis legalization for adult use through Proposal 1 on the general election vote on Nov. 6. Numbers are showing our lead is still holding strong, but we need to band together and withstand the pressures of opposing groups. Cannabis can solve medical, social, and environmental problems if given the chance. It is up to US to show up TOGETHER on Nov. 6, 2018 when we vote YES on PROPOSAL 1 as a COMMUNITY!
PS: We’re just playing LARA, you know we love you.