During the Michigan Medical Board meeting on Thursday, a serious scramble ensued as about 50 medical cannabis businesses were rushing to meet the deadline. The enterprises have just 10 days to get licensed before they are ordered to shut down by the state.
The board has handled its biggest agenda since it commenced its meetings May, last year as it is set to sort 118 marijuana business license applications up for consideration as well as along as many other dispensaries threatened by the deadline of 31 March.
The five-member board faced a bittersweet moment that might be scrapped on 30 April and replaced by the new state agency, Marijuana Regulatory Agency. This agency will be making a decision on those who qualify to get the license.
“To be honest, I have had enough,” said R-Leroy, the chairman of the board who is also the former House Rick. “But we have now created a good, solid foundation on this point.”
Early this month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved an executive order that seeks an order to disband the board and allow the state bureaucracy to take control of licensing and regulatory decisions. This will apply to both recreational marijuana market and the ongoing medical marijuana, which is expected to available online early next year.
“For a long time, I have been involved in this type of stuff and sometimes it can be political and other times it is not,” explained Johnson. “Every leader that comes into the office has the ability to do things his or her way.”
The board has been operating on starts and fits, with several meetings handling only a few licenses applications and others jam-packed like Thursday’s meeting. According to Whitmer, the new agency would have more consistent and efficient decisions.
This politically appointed five-member board has been criticized for its slow pace in approving licenses. Besides, David Lamontaine resigned earlier this month from the board making it shrink to four members. A retired police officer of Michigan State Donald Bailey, one of the board members, said there was lots of blame going around due to the delays in making decisions.
He also gave an example of one of the applicants who had applied in 2018 August without all the vital information needed until he delivered it to the state in January.
“The applicant is one of the culprits not any of us,” Donald said. “Any person who wants blame the board for not playing its part can learn from this applicant as there is enough evidence to blame everyone.”
According to the director of the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, Andrew Brisbo, the deadline for these unlicensed marijuana businesses to shut down was the main agenda for the lengthy meeting that took over three hours.
“With the March 31st deadline, we received a lot of responses from various applicants as expected,” he added. “Usually, this is a motivating factor that will encourage people to send the things that we need to us.”
About 50 unlicensed businesses, will receive letters urging them to stop their operations from the state with dispensaries being the vast majority. Then there will be a potential follow-up from the law enforcement if the businesses fail to cease their operations.
“Usually, there is a possibility that there could be a criminal follow-up with those found breaking the law,” stated Brisbo.
The board has approved about 148 licenses since when they started to consider applications for processors, transporters, growers, dispensaries and testing facilities in July. Out of the total approved licenses, there are 110 businesses, 58 dispensaries, 35 growers, 11 processors, five transporters and four testing facilities that have already paid their state regulatory assessments and received the licenses.
On 21st March Thursday, another batch of 91 applicants were awarded a pre-approval status, which included a dispensary linked to VB Chesaning. VB Chesaning is large operation marijuana grow found in Chesaning, and it’s owned by Vincenzo Celani and Benedetto. They are the sons of Tom Celani, a businessman of Bloomfield Hills and a prominent metro Detroit who has interest in casinos. Besides, the businessman also owns Michigan Lottery Freedom Hill Amphitheater. M. Scott Bowen who has been a Michigan Lottery Commissioner since 2008-17 is one of the partners of VP dispensary.
Since September, the deadline for unlicensed dispensaries approval has been a moving target. First, the deadline was extended from October to 15 Dec, then to 1st January and lastly to 31st March to ensure that medical marijuana patients get enough access to products. As on Thursday, there were 13 dispensaries approved, and there is now 55 dispensaries operating in the state. Consequently, Michigan is now sure to have enough facilities that can accommodate almost 293,000 medical marijuana patients.
Therefore, it is also highly unlikely that the March 31st deadline would be extended.