After this weekend’s stellar event, Michigan’s cannabis community was reveling in the post-coital bliss of a High Times Medical Cannabis Cup- but the afterglow didn’t last very long.
The buzzkill began at 1:30pm on Monday, the day following the close of the Cup at Auto City Speedway in Clio, near Flint. Approx. 400 people showed up to a meeting held in a 200-person room. The huge turnout was for a crucial first meeting of the state agency charged with approving all the licenses for the state’s medical marijuana business program, which is worth an estimated $700 million in Michigan.
The Medical Marihuana Licensing Board met in Lansing at the G. Mennen Williams Building. The Board is composed of five members including a former Speaker of the House; the head of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy; a former Michigan State Police sergeant; the former president of the General Motors Foundation; and a member of the Executive Board of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan. They will approve every entity charged with growing, distributing, testing, transporting or processing medical cannabis under the new Michigan program, which will begin making and taxing marijuana sales in 2018.
One speaker made note of the fact that the Board was comprised of three Republicans and two Independents. Another noted that the Board includes several former law enforcement officials, and another complained that Gov. Snyder is three months overdue to appoint an Administrative Rules Panel, which is mandated by a specific time frame in the law he himself signed less than a year ago.
The only Board member of the new panel who offered any insight at all was controversial former Michigan State Police sergeant Don Bailey. He had been referenced multiple times during the public comment period by angry residents of the region in which Bailey had been a law enforcement officer. Both Chad Morrow and Don Koshmider read Bailey’s own words to the room and on the record, words excerpted from court documents and those captured on video during police raids of medical marijuana caregivers, patients and businesses in Gaylord and surrounding communities.
The citations read by the activists from Bailey included statements of disregard for the medical marijuana law, for the businesses which serve the registered patients, and assurances that THC limits on medical cannabis products would be put in place when he had a position of authority.
Bailey responded at the end of the meeting. He said, in part:
“Right now, none of the extracts are legal. None of the dispensaries are legal under state law. It is black and white. With the Supreme Court making a final ruling two weeks ago, that is a done deal. So anything that’s open right now isn’t legal. Going forward, there’s going to be a new law and they are going to be legal. But, if you’ve demonstrated in the past that you are not going to abide by the law that we did have, why would we think- it’s a rhetorical question- going forward, that you would abide by the new law. That’s all I have.” (emphasis added)
Many at the meeting took Bailey’s words to mean that he would not approve anyone currently operating a medical marijuana-related business in Michigan from receiving a license to operate under the new MMFLA rules.
See and hear Bailey’s comments on video at: https://youtu.be/meYXL1oKUxI
In advance of the applications being issued by the state, business professionals and attorneys have been busy preparing their clients for the anticipated application standards. On July 9 the MICBD Group is hosting a conference in Detroit which features a keynote address by City Council President pro tem George Cushingberry and a special update of the MMFLA rollout by a representative from either LARA or the recently-created Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR).
The Chairman of the new Board, Rick Johnson, apologized to the meeting attendees for the inadequate room size and assured the attendees that the misstep would be corrected. Johnson is a former lobbyist whose firm has medical marijuana industry clients; Johnson severed business ties with the company in order to take the position of Chair. A recent Detroit Free Press article revealed that the Board members have their business ties and financial disclosures reviewed in secret by the Governor’s office, and called into question the nature of that vetting process.
Photos on social media show a line that stretches literally out the door of the G. Mennen Williams Building and into the courtyard beyond as people waited to hear and participate in the inaugural proceedings of the Board. Those who did get inside were treated to a panel of five silent faces- the panelists did not introduce themselves or provide the citizens any background information, nor did they answer any questions from the people attending.
Some of the attendees had filled out cards indicating their interest in speaking, but declined to do so when they discovered they were not allowed to ask questions. Although the next meeting of the Licensing Board was slated for October, the Chair stated they would schedule a meeting before then, based on the overwhelming citizen response.