On June 26 the newly-created Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will hold its first meeting. This will be the first opportunity for Michigan business hopefuls to meet the five most important people in the MMFLA process: those appointed persons who will approve or deny every application received by the state for a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation license.
NOTE: the ‘h’ in Marihuana is an intentional misspell by the state’s legislature, and is used when referencing Acts or legislation where that spelling is contained in the title. ~Editors
Notice was posted on the Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) website on June 19 to announce the event. The meeting will be held in the G. Mennen Williams Building Auditorium in Lansing at 1:30 pm. On the agenda: a discussion about the group’s organization and public comments.
In 2016 the Michigan legislature passed a set of bills collectively known as the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, which outline five protected and state-licensed types of businesses: cultivation, testing, distribution, transport and processing of medical marijuana. Administrative Rules for the new program were to be created in early 2017, with applications available to prospective licensees by December and approvals of facilities beginning in that month or 2018.
That program would create a medical marijuana business industry “on steroids,” as the Detroit Free Press quoted Sen. Colbeck as saying on March 25th.
As to date, the 17-member panel described in the MMFLA who are tasked with advising LARA on the creation of the MMFLA rules by the language of the law has not been appointed. Its job is to “make recommendations to the board concerning promulgation of rules and, as requested by the board or the department, the administration, implementation, and enforcement of this act and the marihuana tracking act.” per Michigan law 333.27801, titled “Marihuana advisory panel.”
“The members first appointed to the panel shall be appointed within 3 months after the effective date of this act and shall serve at the pleasure of the governor,” per that same law. The effective date of the MMFLA was Dec. 20, 2017.
The Governor, the Speaker of the House and the Senate Majority Leader have appointed the five members of the license approval committee; it is this smaller group which will be conducting a meeting on June 26.
The five persons who comprise the Board are 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.
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 MMFLA is evolving in other ways, as well. Sen. Rick Jones has introduced two separate bills in the Senate to adjust the rules for the MMFLA program. The first, SB 433, was introduced on June 6 and would require applicants to undergo a federal background check and agree to have their information entered into a national monitoring database.
The second was issued with a companion House bill and would make it illegal to advertise cannabis businesses on billboards across Michigan- even to advertise those businesses who are licensed by the state. Instead of amending the MMFLA directly, these two bills- SB 463 and HB 4767 by Rep. Andy Schor- instead amend the Highway Advertising Act of 1972. Cited by Jones as a reason for the bill: a series of billboards from the dispensary finder service Weedmaps, which advertise their services by saying, “High Detroit!” or “High Lansing!”.
On April 13 Gov Snyder issued a press release creating a new department, the afore-mentioned BMMR. BMMR is a division created within LARA and will contain all elements of medical marijuana patient, caregiver and facilities licensing duties. “Regulatory functions include the licensing, investigation and enforcement of medical marihuana growers, processors, secure transporters, provisioning centers and safety compliance facilities. The legislation requires the bureau to make licensing applications available by December 15, 2017,” per the Release.
Also announced at that time: the winner of the bidding process to provide the seed-to-sale tracking system mandated by another bill passed with the MMFLA package. That company is Franwell, Incorporated, who beat out ten competitors and will be paid nearly a half-million dollars for their work.
Franwell has many states under their tracking umbrella, including Colorado, Maryland, Oregon and Alaska. Franwell was awarded a similar contract in Washington State for their new recreational marijuana program. The announcement on June 1 was for a $3 million contract, but just one week later Franwell withdrew their bid without explanation.
Click HERE to access the public notice of the Board meeting on June 26.
For a fact sheet of MMFLA questions and answers from the Michigan Municipal League, click HERE.
For a fact sheet of MMFLA questions and answers from the Michigan Townships Association, click HERE.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Rick Thompson is the owner of the MICBD Group. That company is mentioned in this article.