An advisory issued today by Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) provides additional guidance toward businesses in or hoping to become part of Michigan’s medical marijuana business economy. The advisory provides a brief set of rules regarding the testing of cannabis products, and when in the supply chain those tests are to be performed.
Currently in Michigan commercially-sold cannabis is typically tested when it is ready to leave the place where it was grown; if that cannabis is used to create products like foodstuffs, topical ointments or concentrated medicines those products are tested prior to distribution to patients.
The LARA memo embraces this pattern of testing and will require it in Michigan’s new cannabis economy, created by the passage of the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) in 2016. The rules for the MMFLA are being crafted now; this memo is just one of several issued recently which have provided guidance to potential applicants for licenses in the new state-regulated business environment.
Michigan’s current medical marijuana market is unregulated at the state level and there are no requirements for testing of products, although many businesses and caregivers choose to use testing even without a legal requirement. Under the new MMFLA program all cannabis grown, processed and sold by licensees must be tested at these stated times.
The memo from LARA reminds growers and distributors that they are able to test their cannabis at safety compliance facilities as desired, in addition to the specified times. Caregivers, who are not required to test cannabis under the original MMMA program or the new MMFLA system, are also able to submit samples for testing.
From the memo:
Licensed safety compliance facilities will record the results in the statewide monitoring system. Once the results are entered, the grower or the processor that provided the sample will be able to view the results in the statewide monitoring system. Provisioning centers may only sell or transfer marihuana or marihuana-infused products to qualifying registered patients or registered primary caregivers after it has been tested and the state label required for retail sale has been affixed.
The memo from LARA come at a time when they are discussing new rules for the MMFLA program in five different workgroups. Each workgroup corresponds to one of the five regulated businesses created by the MMFLA: cultivation, transportation, testing, processing and distribution. They have each met at least once, have approx. 17-20 members each and include one member of the MMFLA’s Licensing Board.
The Board is a group of five appointed citizens who will make the decisions on all licenses issued under the MMFLA program. The group has met several times, each time centered in a cloud of controversy surrounding the behavior of two Board members, Don Bailey and Rick Johnson. The two have advocated for a full and total shutdown of all medical marijuana distribution facilities across the state, which has brought angry crowds to the meetings and caused media to examine the workings of the Board with intense scrutiny.
The Board is under the control of LARA and its subdivision, the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation. LARA’s Director, Shelly Edgerton, will address the industry at a conference in Ann Arbor on October 15 and will conduct a Q and A session with audience members. Also speaking at the Conference is Ann Arbor House Representative Yousef Rabhi, who introduced HB 5014, a bill to protect dispensaries who stay open during the transition time by issuing a provisional license while their application is being considered by the Licensing Board.
This meeting comes two days before the next Licensing Board meeting, where more controversy is expected to rise as outraged citizens may hold the Board accountable for recent raids of medical marijuana distribution centers across the state.
Bailey and Johnson’s effort to shut down all medical marijuana distribution centers was cut off last month by a LARA memo which dictated no hard shutdown date and a “potential” impediment to an applicant’s status if they operate after December 15. After that defeat of the Board’s effort, law enforcement has seemingly ramped up civil and criminal attacks on existing dispensaries, including some which have been open for several years without incident.
Cities like Atlanta and Traverse City have seen a sudden and surprising effort by state police and other agencies to shutter their dispensaries. Patients who need access to their specialty medicines, available only through the existing dispensary system, have made their needs known to the Board, and they will undoubtedly bring those concerns to the next Board meeting.
Other recent updates from LARA on the MMFLA rollout can be found HERE.