Economic Development, Government, and Law

Whitmer ends medical pot panels

Governor to establish new agency that will ‘eliminate inefficiencies’ under old system.

April 5, 2019
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Later this month, some government groups associated with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs will be abolished.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order to eliminate the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board (MMLB), which approves or denies license applications for marijuana businesses. It will eliminate the Marijuana Advisory Panel, which was established to make recommendations to the MMLB regarding the administration, implementation and enforcement of the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act and the Marihuana Tracking Act. The Bureau of Marijuana also will be eliminated.

The executive order will go into effect April 30. The groups being eliminated will be replaced by a new agency the governor has established, aimed toward addressing issues and establishing laws that relate to both recreational and medical marijuana.

The new Marijuana Regulatory Agency is within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, and it will assume all the authorities, functions, duties and responsibilities of the other three government groups.

"This executive order will eliminate inefficiencies that have made it difficult to meet the needs of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients,” Whitmer said. “All elements of this agency have been designed to serve and better protect Michigan residents, and I’m eager to have a unified effort across state departments to make sure this process runs effectively and efficiently.”

The new agency will be headed by Andrew Brisbo, who served as the director of the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation.

Despite the new and pending challenges the new agency will face, Josh Hovey, spokesperson for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said he is optimistic about the work Brisbo will do, judging from his prior engagements with him.

“Mr. Brisbo has consistently demonstrated a willingness to listen to input with an open ear as we collectively work toward establishing logical and practical rules and regulations that will continue to shape the emerging cannabis industry,” Hovey said. “He understands the importance of two-way dialogue as well as the importance of moving forward efficiently to ensure that regulatory and licensing processes protect both Michiganders as well as the businesses operating within this industry. The MICIA looks forward to working with Brisbo and his team in the coming months.”

The governor’s restructuring of the state’s marijuana industry comes at a pivotal point when leaders in cities and townships across the state are debating whether they’d legally welcome recreational marijuana in their communities after the majority of Michigan voters voted to approve the proposal in November.

While the Grand Rapids City Commission voted to approve medical marijuana facilities and Kent County is in the process of dismissing pending recreational marijuana cases, there are some neighboring municipalities that oppose those measures.

Kentwood and Walker city commissioners oppose the idea of the establishment of marijuana businesses within their borders.

There also is a backlog of applications to obtain medical marijuana business licenses. Last July, the Business Journal reported that more than 600 applications were pending.

David Harns, the communication manager for LARA, said the agency will work with all stakeholder groups in creating regulations and focusing on education and outreach to ensure the state program is transparent and clearly understand to all parties.

“Building strong relationships with municipalities for collaboration is critical to success with requirements under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act and Michigan Regulations and Taxation of Marihuana Act for local involvement,” he said. “We have included municipal representatives in work group sessions for MRTMA implementation and also presented numerous times to municipal organizations such as the Michigan Municipal League. The agency also administers the grant program to provide funding for education, communication and outreach regarding the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association.”

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