Marijuana dispensaries waiting for licenses to get more breathing room
LANSING – After approving licenses on Monday for 21 more medical marijuana businesses in the state, regulators said it’s still not enough to provide adequate access to medical weed for the state’s 270,000-plus patients.
So they decided to extend the Sept. 15 deadline for businesses operating under emergency rules to either get approved for a license or be shut down. It will be the third time the deadline has been extended since the state began accepting license applications in December 2017.
Andrew Brisbo, director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, wouldn’t immediately give specifics about how long the deadline will be extended or for which businesses, but about 230 businesses, mostly dispensaries, including more than 60 in Detroit, have applied and are awaiting a license from the state while operating with the permission of the communities where they’re located.
The extension was announced during a meeting of the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board and still has to be signed off on by Gov. Rick Snyder.
A group of lawmakers, a couple of cities and several organizations had pleaded with the state to extend the deadline to ensure that patients had adequate access to medical marijuana until more businesses around the state get licensed.
“It’s less about availability. There is availability, particularly with the number of approvals we had today,” Brisbo said, noting that a total of 37 licenses have been approved so far this year. “But certainly, more couldn’t hurt. We’ve heard a lot of concerns over the past month and we want to make sure those concerns are heard and considered.”
Stuart Carter, the owner of the Utopia Gardens dispensary in Detroit who is waiting for a state license and is operating with permission from the city, said news of the extension is a relief.
“You don’t want to tell your employees that their job is in jeopardy, so we dodged a bullet again today,” he said. “This business is not for the faint of heart, but I’m still optimistic. We passed our inspection last week.”
The licensing board’s approval of 21 applications Monday included 13 dispensaries in Jackson, Frederic, River Rouge, Ann Arbor, Detroit, Vassar, Bay City and Breedsville; two secure transport companies; two processors; three testing facilities and three growers.
The board also denied licenses for eight dispensaries and two grower applicants. In addition, 28 applications were up for preliminary approval and the board approved one processor, two growers, three dispensaries and one transport company. Denied preliminary approval were one grower and 20 dispensaries, including 18 owned by one person.
The board has received 702 license applications and in an attempt to speed up the approval process, the board also adopted a resolution that delegates the responsibility for reviewing financial information of applicants to officials at the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, who will then make a recommendation to the board.
“It’s a good step forward to expedite the process.,” Brisbo said. “Instead of providing thousands of pages of documents to the board for review, we’ll provide them a recommendation as to the financial standing of the applicants. It will simplify and expedite the process.”
Board chairman Rick Johnson offered the resolution as a means to cut back on some of the avalanche of documents received by the board.
“I’m not saying that we can’t ask questions of the department,” he said. “But this will give us some direction that could be beneficial.”
But board member Don Bailey, a retired Michigan State Police officer, objected to the measure as a dangerous reduction of scrutiny given to applicants. As a board member, he has often said that the financial records of some of the applicants are akin to money laundering even though no such charges have been filed by law enforcement.
“None of us enjoys going through all these records, but somebody’s got to do it,” he said. “We’re seeing bank deposits of $30,000 to $50,000 with no explanation of where the money is coming from. There is an investigation on some of these issue that needs to take place and I don’t think it’s happening as it should.”
Michigan voters approved legalizing medical marijuana in 2008 and will consider legalizing weed for recreational use on Nov. 6. If it gets approved by voters, the licensing of recreational marijuana businesses will be the responsibility of LARA, not the politically appointed board that hands out licenses for medical marijuana businesses.
Original Article by Detroit Press