On the eve of a meeting where the shutdown of all medical marijuana distribution centers could be decided, new numbers on Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Program reveal a catastrophic consequence to that decision.
Recent reports have updated the number of registered patients, caregivers and patients who use caregivers in Michigan. There are currently 262,000 patients registered in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program (MMP), making it the second largest patient population in the nation, behind only California.
In a personal communication with the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation, there are approx. 43,000 persons in Michigan who are registered as caregivers, and they serve approx. 95,000 patients.
That means approx. 167,000 people in the state of Michigan use the current dispensary industry to supply their medical needs, or they cultivate cannabis for themselves, or both. A proposed dispensary shutdown would strand those patients without a stable supply of cannabis to satisfy their medicinal needs, which could lead to failing health in patients and a resurgence in Michigan’s black market for marijuana.
The new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA) was passed by the legislature in 2016 to establish a regulated and taxed medical cannabis production, processing, testing and distribution industry. That industry already exists in Michigan, with processors and testing labs and distribution centers located across the state, operating in support of those 262,000 patients with local approval or tolerance but without state authority.
Applications for those newly-created MMFLA business licenses begins on December 15, with approvals anticipated in the first quarter of 2018.
On Tuesday, September 12, a Licensing Board for the MMFLA will debate for a third time their desire to scrape the state clean of any vestiges of this current industry, scorching the earth in preparation for the new industry to launch in 2018.
“Under the best circumstances, cannabis takes about 4 – 6 months to grow from seed to harvest,” said Jamie Lowell of the Michigan Marijuana Law Experts. Those first quarter of 2018 license awardees will not be able to produce cannabis for the new industry until mid- to late-summer of 2018. “Even those who grow for their own patient needs often use dispensaries to maintain their medical treatments in those times between harvests.”
Caregivers use dispensaries to obtain the starter plants needed to begin a new crop for their patients and to obtain cannabis for their patients between harvests; so do patients who have already assigned a caregiver but whose medical needs are more immediate than their caregiver can provide for. All 262,000 patients cultivating on their own or with a caregiver would potentially be impacted if distribution centers as they currently exist were suddenly eliminated, Lowell clarified.
Bailey’s Bad Math
Michigan law allows patients to possess just 2.5 ounces at a time, meaning they cannot legally stockpile large quantities of cannabis to tide them over between cultivation events.
During the last meeting of the Licensing Board, former MSP Sergeant and Board member Don Bailey provided some fuzzy math regarding caregiver production and the amount of marijuana available in the state to satisfy patient needs.
Bailey is pushing for the statewide dispensary shutdown, along with Board chairman Rick Johnson. His cannabis production and consumption numbers were put on public record to dismiss the notion that patients would not be able to maintain their medical marijuana treatments in a dispensary-free Michigan for six months. Caregivers produce enough marijuana to satisfy the entire state, Bailey hammered home, and dispensaries are not needed. He hypothesized that all caregivers grow on behalf of 5 patients and themselves, and that each caregiver grew 72 plants which each yielded one pound of useable marijuana.
At that production level, Michigan’s medical needs for cannabis are already satisfied, Bailey told the Board and the audience.
Don Bailey’s plan assumed a cannabis production scenario where caregivers were providing for more than 200,000 patients, based on the mathematics numbers he provided during public testimony.
Bailey’s logic failed on three counts. First, the yields and consumption levels he cited are nonsensical in the modern world of cannabis cultivation, according to industry experts. Second, the actual number of patients serviced by caregivers is less than 100,000, meaning his projection on the amount of cannabis being produced by the MMP is more than double the actual number.
Third, and most important, the notion that caregivers generate enough marijuana to supply everyone without dispensaries fails to recognize that transferring cannabis to a person to whom you are not directly connected is a crime by Bailey’s own stated definition. The former MSP sergeant’s proposal to spread that pot around to random patients across the state would require people to criminalize their behavior just to maintain their medical treatments.
The fact that a law enforcement official would propose a system of marijuana supply, which is predicated on mass criminal acts, should cause all to question Mr. Bailey’s current suggestion, his future proposals, and his continued presence on the Board.