NEW press release from LARA outlines conditions under which testing labs and dispensaries can remain open during the licensing process; dire warnings of law enforcement action are mixed with optimistic schedule for approval
by Rick Thompson/November 1, 2017
UPDATE: This story was updated on November 2 to add the web address of the LARA advisory. It is HERE. This link appears at the bottom of the article as well. ~RT
LANSING- As a new regulated business program is rolled out in 2017, medical marijuana patients in Michigan have been nervously awaiting a decision by the state regarding the future of the existing medical marijuana distribution and testing system.
Now we know.
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) issued on November 1 a directive which allows for only a portion of the state’s existing and unregulated medical marijuana businesses to remain open during the creation of the new regulated cannabis marketplace.
The new Medical Marihuana Faciltiies Licensing Act (MMFLA) will regulate five different industries in the state: testing, sales, transport, cultivation and processing of medicinal cannabis. Today’s memo referenced regulations for all businesses which would qualify as “proposed medical marihuana facilities – that would otherwise require a state operating license under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA)”.
Michigan has no recognized transporters, no locally-authorized processing facilities or commercially licensed cultivation facilities other than those belonging to registered medical marijuana caregivers. The November 1 memo seems to affect the testing and retail sales industries exclusively.
LARA, the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) and it’s Licensing Board are tasked with approving or denying business applications to the new system. The November 1 memo states “the Bureau and Board will not consider a medical marihuana facility’s prior operation as an impediment to licensure as long as the applicant documents approval from their municipality in their application,” per a statement by BMMR Director Andrew Brisbo.
The requirements for proving local authorization will be difficult to achieve for some.
The requirements, as outlined in the memo:
To avoid facing an impediment to licensure, the applicant must have been operating a proposed medical marihuana facility within the boundaries of a municipality that adopted an authorizing ordinance prior toDecember 15, 2017, and must submit a complete prequalification application by February 15, 2018, with one of the following documents included in the application:
- An attestation – signed by the local clerk – that affirms the municipality has allowed, by ordinance, the operation of marihuana establishments.
- An attestation – signed by the local clerk – that affirms the municipality has adopted a new or amended ordinance required under section 205 of the MMFLA.
It is unclear if the cities of Flint, Ann Arbor, Ypsilanti and Detroit have ordinances which conform to the requirements of Section 205. These four are the state’s most visible cities with authorizing ordinances (to varying degrees) for the medical marijuana distribution centers within their borders.
“Local municipality authorization is required, so not all facilities currently in place will be able to comply with the rules as they may not have municipal authority for the business activity,” the BMMR said in a FAQ section which was posted online in conjunction with the press release.
The requirements for protection under this new policy will be a shield for only a small portion of the testing centers and medical marijuana distribution centers operating statewide, as many businesses are open with the sanction of their community but without a formal ordinance authorizing their existence. Cities like Lansing, Thetford Township, Davison and others have dispensary or testing businesses but may not have in place the formal language required by the new LARA directive.
“If a local municipality wants currently operating marihuana facilities to remain open, they should authorize them to do so before December 15, 2017. This provision for proposed medical marihuana facilities continuing to operate with local approval only applies to facilities operating in municipalities with authorizing ordinances in place,” the FAQ states. This will create a rush to approve local laws statewide as existing businesses try to force local officials to enact ordinances to provide them with the new, necessary LARA requirement.
Also contained in the new memo are more guidelines from the BMMR:
- Proposed medical marihuana facilities that continue to operate with local approval are not guaranteed a state operating license.
- Proposed medical marihuana facilities that continue to operate with local approval must cease operations if any of the following are true, or risk denial of licensure:
- A completed prequalification application is not turned into LARA by February 15, 2018.
- The applicant has been denied state licensure.
- The applicant has not been issued a state license by June 15, 2018.
- Noncompliance is grounds for disciplinary action and referral to law enforcement for unlicensed activity. Until a license is received from the state, the operation of a proposed medical marihuana facility should be considered a business risk by the operator. This process will allow for unlicensed activity to be reported to LARA and potentially forwarded to the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General.
- LARA and the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board expect to begin issuing state operating licenses by April 2018, if not sooner.
The phrases, “Noncompliance is grounds for… referral to law enforcement for unlicensed activity” and “This process will allow for unlicensed activity to be reported to LARA and potentially forwarded to the Michigan State Police and the Attorney General” are particularly provocative. One of the members of the Licensing Board is a former Michigan State Police sergeant with a checkered past who has repeatedly stated his intention to deny approval to any business which operated prior to September 15, 2017, regardless of what other promises or agreements LARA and the BMMR make with the public and private sector.
The November 1st memo comes on the heels of an October 26 advisory from LARA which outlined more rules for municipal officials and restrictions on local regulations over medical marijuana facilities. That memo can be found HERE.
You can find the November 1st advisory on the web at THIS ADDRESS.