Why Michigan could be facing a marijuana shortage

Why Michigan could be facing a marijuana shortage
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Updated at 12:52 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 25:

David Harns of the state office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had these clarifications to add to how the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board is handling supplies at provisioning centers.

As reported in this week's Higher Ground [Oct. 24], Harns said, "If they give up their caregiver status, that means all the product that they bring with them can go into the state monitoring system within the first 30 days. As long as it's tested they can sell it beyond that 30 days."

Harns clarified that with, "I was misinformed. Rule 4 of the October Rules requires that any product not sourced through the regulated supply chain has to be destroyed at the 30-day mark – this rule only applies to facilities licensed by October 31. Anyone licensed after October 31, Rule 20 of the May Rules applies, meaning they can enter their product within the 30 days after licensure but it must be fully tested to be sold. The May Rules and October Rules are only valid until November 30, unless extended."

Unless extended. So there might be some hedging on these dates.

The other thing Harns wanted to clarify was his statement, "The only way that you can put product into the license system is from a caregiver to a grower."

His further clarification is, "Growers can do this, so that part is correct. It’s a little misleading, though, as growers and processors can still take in certain marihuana products from caregivers who become employees until December 31, 2018. Growers can bring in plants, seeds, and seedlings. Processors can bring in plants and usable marihuana. That first sentence is technically accurate but the way you’ve put it makes it sound like it’s literally the only way (which it’s not until 12/31)."

No wonder nobody out here understands what is going on with licensing marijuana businesses. The folks at the MMLB don't seem to be very sure about what they're up to so there is no way they can send a clear message.

Originally posted on Wednesday:

If the Oct. 31 deadline for unlicensed provisioning centers in Michigan holds, it will be the first hard deadline the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board has maintained in its first year of operation. The folks at the state office say that it's not going to be extended, but they said that about every other deadline until just a few days before the date.

It looks like this one might stick. That's because the MMLB seems to finally be coming to terms with the idea that there needs to be a continuous supply available for patients. And while it still seems insufficient, you've got to start somewhere.

Here's where we stand at getting a state system off the ground: On Oct. 31 all provisioning centers that are not licensed by the state must shut their doors. This is being described by the state office of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the medical marijuana program, as a move to get facilities that have not been advancing their applications to get their information in or drop out. According to LARA, there are numerous applicants that have not responded to requests for further information.

"There are quite a few that aren't moving forward with the process at all," says David Harns, communications director for LARA.

It's a tough application that takes a microscope to your financial life. A lot of folks probably just threw up their hands. It may not be possible to document something that happened eight years ago. Others just aren't ready for the level of scrutiny they're facing. As it stands now, those who are ready to move forward, as well as all of the rest of us, need to do that. Changing the minds of the MMLB members about what they need to know about you is a longer-term issue.

The MMLB plan, for now, is that licensed facilities have 30 days from the issue of the license to bring their inventory into state compliance. That means they have that time to continue selling what they have on their shelves if patients are informed.

"You can sell product that wasn't tested as long as you have the person buying the product sign a waiver saying they understand that the product hasn't been tested," says Harns.

The understanding is that provisioning centers now get their product from caregiver overages. After 30 days those products must come only from state-licensed suppliers and been tested at a state-licensed lab. However, there is a little caveat in there for caregivers. If a grower hires a caregiver, then the caregiver's inventory can become part of the deal.

"If they give up their caregiver status, that means all the product that they bring with them can go into the state monitoring system within the first 30 days," says Harns. "As long as it's tested they can sell it beyond that 30 days."

That's a start. I don't know if there's a way to be prepared for the demand when the system ramps up. Maybe folks who need to should stock up while they can. The harvest for anybody who's been growing outdoors just came in, so maybe there is a little extra inventory out there.

Growers will also be able to buy seedlings and seeds from caregivers. I assume that means clones too. In fact, caregivers are the only officially sanctioned route for growers to obtain supplies. Seed banks are questionable.

"The only way that you can put product into the license system is from a caregiver to grower," says Harns. "The [Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act] does not provide any authorization or prohibition on growers obtaining seeds. The [Michigan Medical Marihuana Act] provides protections for patients and/or caregivers for transferring or selling seeds to growers."

Regardless of the source, the seed-to-sale tracking system has to note the origin of everything.

The bottom line is that it still doesn't seem like enough to cover what has been available to patients up to this point. There may be no way to be prepared for that. There were numerous reports of a Canadian marijuana shortage on their second day of legalization, which on one hand is kind of cool because it bespeaks an underground and uncountable number of people who are ready to use the stuff. Similarly, maybe there's an underground and uncountable number of people in Michigan who are ready to vote yes on Prop 1.

While the folks at LARA deal with a medical marijuana system, Harns knows that if recreational legalization wins in November that's going to be in LARA's lap too. And they're well aware of what's going on in Canada. They're not charged with that yet, but certainly keeping an eye on what happens.

"If the voters decide to do this," says Harns, "then we'll be checking into all of the different sources where we can figure it out."

That includes from our northern neighbors. The law legalizing cannabis was passed by the Canadian government in June, and they've rolled out a distribution system just four months later by piggybacking it onto the medical system. Michigan's Prop 1 — with knowledge of the 10 years it's taken for the state to accept and set up a medical system that is still not yet fully functioning — mandates that the state begin handing out recreational licenses within one year. It might not take that long if they get this medical thing off the ground first.

29 and counting

As of last week the state-licensed marijuana businesses included 29 provisioning centers, nine growers, five processors, four testing facilities, and three transporters. Many of the provisioning centers are clustered in southeast Michigan, as that is where the bulk of the patients are. Oakland County has its first dispensary that the prosecutor and sheriff can't terrorize for just being there. There are at least four provisioning centers in Detroit with more expected soon. There's a safety compliance facility in Hazel Park, a processor in Inkster, a secure transporter in Hazel Park, a provisioning center in River Rouge. There are a handful of locations in Ann Arbor. Hopefully these will be filling out over the next few weeks with more licenses coming.

Buds and donuts

It could be that I've contributed to criminal activity in the medical marijuana world. I noticed that the Unified Collective on Eight Mile Road shut down over a month ago. I figured that it was due to not getting a state license. To my surprise, I saw a report last week that owners of the Holy Moly Donut Shop, which is right next door to the Unified Collective location, had been indicted on drug conspiracy and money laundering charges. Police believe the donut shop was a money laundering front for a multi-state marijuana ring, and that the Unified Collective was a sham medical marijuana dispensary.

The Unified Collective caught my attention because it had a billboard on Eight Mile Road, and because of the donut shop next door. You know, munchies and all that. I bought marijuana from there twice but I didn't like the place much. I tried to chat up the attendant about marijuana but she didn't seem to know or care much with a buy-your-marijuana-and-get-out-of-here attitude. I took my business elsewhere.

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About The Author

Larry Gabriel

Larry Gabriel covers cannabis for Metro Times. He also writes the Detroit Watch in the monthly Michigan Cannabis Industries Report. Larry's chapter "Rebirth of Tribe" in the book Heaven Was Detroit, from jazz to hip-hop and beyond chronicles the involvement of Marcus Belgrave, Wendell Harrison, Harold McKinney,...
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