A six-bill package introduced this month in Lansing aims to strengthen state oversight over medical cannabis caregivers, which critics say is a veiled attempt by commercial growers to increase their share of retail market.
Bills 5300-5302 and 5319-5321 would limit the amount of plants and the number of patients medical cannabis caregivers could serve under the 2008 Medical Marijuana Act. The bills would require caregivers to obtain a state license and also subject cannabis grown by caregivers to authorized testing. Cannabis sales from caregivers to patients would be tax exempt under the bill.
The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA), a trade group representing large-scale commercial cannabis producers, supports the legislation, saying it would bring state oversight to a large majority of unregulated cannabis sales. The group commissioned a study from East Lansing-based Anderson Economic Group, showing that about two-thirds of Michigan’s $ 3.2 billion in annual cannabis sales occur outside the licensed market.
“Which means there are a ton of products that aren’t tested for safety and that aren’t taxed,” said Stephen Linder, executive director of MCMA. MiBiz. “The intention of all bills is to provide safe and tested products.”
In addition to licensing and testing requirements, the bills would limit the total number of herbs a caregiver could increase to 12 after reducing the number of patients from five to one.
“The bills we have drafted are a great way for people who are now caregivers to get a very low barrier entry permit and not have to build any facilities,” Linder added. “The only real requirement is that they test their product. ”
However, the proposals met with stiff opposition from caregiver advocates as well as some vertically integrated cannabis companies in the licensing market. Critics say caregivers helped supply state patients with medical marijuana for nearly a decade before Michigan’s current regulatory structure was created in 2016 and followed by a 2018 law. for recreational cannabis.
“Knowing all the drafters of the 2018 Legalization Bill, I don’t know of a single one who supports any changes to the state’s caregiver law,” said Josh Hovey, vice president of the cabinet. public relations office based in Lansing. Martin waymire who served as the spokesperson for the 2018 voting initiative. “It’s a pretty good indication that the intent of legalization was to create a law where caregivers and licensed industry could live side by side. ”
“Today you have a set of companies looking to gain a greater share of the market by essentially excluding caregivers from Michigan law or by making it very difficult to operate and serve their patients,” Hovey added. . “That’s why you see a very large part of Michigan licensed industry moving away from this effort to limit caregiver activity.”
The proposals also received scrutiny from several company officials who recently participated in a MiBiz Michigan Cannabis Industry Roundtable. Some panelists called this effort a fundamental misunderstanding of Michigan’s “gray” cannabis market and noted that many caregivers have since moved to the licensed market. Caregivers can also provide niche products for patients at much lower costs than authorized retailers.
“Former Michigan caregivers who entered the regulated retail industry understood the Michigan market,” Peter Marcus, Grand Rapids communications director Terrapin care station, said at the roundtable. “Your big (management services organizations) out of state had no idea about the Michigan market. Institutional knowledge is on the side of legacy. These are the people who know cannabis, the quality and the market – they come from the underground and have seen it grow forever. (Out of State Businesses) know about finance, listed on the stock exchange this and that. They don’t know much about marijuana.
Linder argues that existing caregivers could still operate in Michigan, albeit under new regulations.
“They can still do it, they just have to buy a cheap license and test their product,” Linder replied.
Meanwhile, the bills would require qualified majority support in the state legislature, as well as the approval of Governor Gretchen Whitmer. While some cannabis advocates have suggested this is too big a hurdle, Hovey noted that the effort is part of a campaign well funded by multi-state operators.
“We don’t experience this process as an exercise,” Linder said. “We go through this process because we believe the people of Michigan deserve to have confidence in the products they consume. We would not have done this if we had not thought that reasonable people in the Legislature whose job it is to protect people were ready to hear the benefits of these bills.