by Rick Thompson/8/9/2019
“Anyone know of Licensed grows that have Flower?”
This Facebook post triggered a series of laughing emojis in response. Another post began with, “Need product from state growers any recommendations” which brought this answer:
“I’m a store manager in SW Michigan. If anyone knows where i (sic) can get some flower please message!”
Those in the know understand that the licensed MMFLA provisioning centers are hurting for cannabis flower, hurting so bad they are using old school methods to get hooked up.
Normally patients in need of caregivers use Facebook to connect. People looking for clones use social media to arrange meetings. And people with cannabis use social media to make sales outside of the regulated market to people who need cannabis.
Lately, though, license-wielding and highly regulated provisioning centers are using Facebook to connect with the state’s license-wielding and highly regulated cultivation centers. Although the action seems perfectly legal it is a sign of desperation as provisioning centers search the web to keep the most highly sought after cannabis product on the shelf.
Other Facebook users expressed frustration at the lack of tested cannabis in the MMFLA supply chain. Comments include: “..nobody has flower…” “I know it’s slim right now” and “give me a call when you get some product”.
“Many approved PC’s are not opening up for this very reason,” wrote Harry Hiytham Barash in response. He is the administrator of the Facebook group ‘Michigan Cannabis Professionals Network’ and is also a Cannabis Real Estate Advisor with CMP Real Estate Group.
The struggle is real. Colin MacDougall of the Jazz Cabbage Cafe radio show told the podcast’s listeners on August 6 that the Ann Arbor provisioning center he works at had only a few types of flower available for medical patients, and that on one recent day they had only a single variety.
During a special Friday night edition of the show’s regular Tuesday broadcast, Anqunette ‘Q’ Sarfoh of Detroit provisioning center Botaniq gave a similar report. Her shelves held less than five strains, she told listeners during the July 26th recording event. In the days that followed she went on social media to let her customers know that their selection of flower buds was extremely low.
It is a problem that did not exist a month ago, and one which patients say should be fixed.
The supply shortage comes after the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) changed the way registered caregivers transfer cannabis from their personal gardens into the regulated market. Previously, untested cannabis from caregivers could be acquired by patients through provisioning centers provided the patient signed a waiver form certifying their knowledge that the product was not tested.
The MRA has stated there has never been a reported illness from caregiver cannabis sold at provisioning centers. Caregivers were the dominant source of all cannabis sold at provisioning centers during 2018 and 2019, until the recent change in regulations.
Under the new regulations caregiver cannabis must pass the same testing standards that commercially-grown cannabis has to endure before it can be sold in a provisioning center. Caregiver cannabis was promptly shelved and available when provisioning centers were allowed to purchase from caregivers directly; now caregivers must sell their cannabis to commercial cultivators or processing centers, which lengthens the time from acquisition to retail sale.
Taken together, caregivers currently have the right to cultivate more than one million cannabis plants in Michigan. Each patient to whom they are connected allows the caregiver to grow twelve plants; if the caregiver is a patient, too, the maximum they could grow is 72 plants. There is plenty of cannabis in caregiver hands, ready to jump onto the shelves again and satisfy the medical needs of Michigan’s nearly 300,000 registered patients.
Provisioning centers report they have supplies of other forms of cannabis medicine- cartridges for vaping, various types of infused foods, etc.- but flower buds are in short supply and high demand.
Patients who need flower to satisfy their medical conditions are still out there making purchases, observed longtime cannabis advocate and industry consultant Jamie Lowell, they are just not using the regulated market to do so. “The longer the wait for provisioning centers to be properly supplied, the stronger the black market gets.”
“I don’t know why they did that,” wrote one Facebook user, describing the change in caregiver cannabis acquisition instituted by the MRA. “They should just change it back. This isn’t working.”