January 14, 2019
RE: MEDICAL MARIJUANA SHUTDOWN CRISIS
To the Honorable Gretchen Whitmer and the Honorable Dana Nessel:
A public health, safety and welfare crisis exists for Michigan’s medical marijuana patients and the businesses that serve them.
Until January 1, 2019, approx. 115 medical marijuana distribution centers were authorized for operation by Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) statewide; on January 1, that number dropped to 42. Due to the enactment of the new Administrative Rules for the MMFLA program the temporary operating status of more than 70 centers was rescinded. Those centers were allowed temporary operation because they had filed their applications in a timely manner, were still actively engaged in the process of licensure and met other strict standards established by the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation in 2018.
The stated goal of the MMFLA program is to provide a network of cannabis businesses throughout Michigan, with an eventual goal of having more than 115 licensed distribution centers. The licensing process has been slow. Closure of 70 centers is a step backward in a program struggling to keep pace with the patient demand. Re-creating an industry as robust as the one which existed on Dec. 31, 2018 will take many months, if not longer. At risk are the patients, the oft-forgotten core of the program. LARA’s main purpose should be to ensure the constant and uninterrupted supply of medical cannabis to the persons whom they are charged to protect. Closure of functioning and compliant cannabis distribution centers for administrative or regulatory purpose may satisfy the new Administrative Rules but it fails the State’s basic responsibility, created by the Medical Marihuana Act, to protect the health and wellness of those ill and injured persons, both licensed and unlicensed as described within the MMMA’s language.
The currently-operating 42 centers are poorly distributed across the state, with only a single licensed center in the entire Upper Peninsula. The northern, western and southern Lower Peninsula is poorly serviced by the distribution of currently licensed centers. The industry is not sufficiently robust to satisfy the needs of the patient population with the current 42 centers.
Given these facts, we urge you to use the powers vested in your respective offices to take swift action to:
1. Governor Whitmer issue an Executive Order to adopt a continuation of the expired Emergency Rules as they existed on December 1, 2018, including the allowance for provisioning centers to purchase cannabis from caregivers;
2. Within that Executive Order, the Governor should authorize these centers to remain open until the application of each entity is approved, rejected or abandoned.
We hope you swiftly will move to address this crisis for patient access and the medical marijuana community in Michigan.
The MILegalize Board of Directors
The Michigan Democratic Party Cannabis Caucus