It has recently been reported in the Detroit Free Press that lawmakers are attempting to shut down medical marijuana providers that are currently unlicensed. But will this happen once and for all?
In recent years, attempts have been made to stop unlicensed providers – but various court challenges have prevented action from being taken. So is now the time for action to be carried out? Is this the bill that will finally ensure all medical marijuana providers in the state are licenced under Michigan’s new regulatory setup?
Earlier this month, a new bill was introduced and later approved by a House panel in a 5-0 bipartisan vote. The bill states that any Michigan marijuana dispensary that is currently operating without a licence, will not be able to obtain a Medical Marijuana License for the minimum term of one year, as of June 1.
Introduced in early April, the bill is now to be moved into the full House and it’s reported that there is a good chance of the bill being passed not only there, but also in the Senate too. However, as March 31 was the latest of deadlines for the unlicensed medical Michigan marijuana providers to close, and it has now passed, the new June 1 deadline may be able to enforce dispensaries to be shut down.
It appears the original deadline saw multiple challenged in the Michigan Court of Claims, stopping the order from being enforced. However, as course proceedings get underway, those operating without a Medical Marijuana License may need to become aware of June 1 and what it will mean for the future of their businesses.
The issues with unlicensed providers
So what’s the issue with unlicensed dispensaries? Well, Ann Arbor attorney Benjamin Joffe told the DFP, “It’s sorely needed,” of the bill and its harsh deadline. His reasoning? “My licensees cannot compete with this unregulated market,” and various temporary providers “don’t want to sell tested marijuana,” he suggested. And it’s also important to recognize that the House Bill 4440, that was sponsored by Rep. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, will also affect the growers, processors, and transporters in connection with the trade, along with any safety or compliance facilities too.
At the moment, according to David Harns, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, there are around 70 establishments that are licenced, yet additionally around 50 others that are likely to be affected by the deadline.
The issue with the unlicensed said venues, is the regulation, safety, and security of both the production and supply. Licensed dispensaries are to purchase their products from tested suppliers. As a result, their costs can increase for things like secure transformations. Yet, those that are not licensed do not have these fees as they are often purchasing from home-based supplies that are not regulated, tested, or potentially secure.
However, the question that seems to arise here, is that surely licensed providers then give peace of mind for the customer, knowing that the products are tested and secure?
The licensing process
But what does it take to become licensed and why are so many Michigan marijuana suppliers avoiding it? Well, Lilly expressed to the House Government Operations Committee that perhaps many dispensaries are avoiding the licensing process in order to continue to operate without the regulatory rule for as long as possible. So perhaps time really is of the essence here?
As it seems that operating without a Medical Marijuana License will be forbidden in the immediate future, those interested in moving into the Michigan marijuana market will need to obtain their licence before operating if they wish to find business success.
The Michigan marijuana worries
Although it appears that the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, with it’s 120 members, is neutral on the topic, it is thought that most operators will want to compete fairly. And one can only assume with some being unlicensed at the time being, that an even playing field is certainly not reachable until that changes. Those that are paying higher fees may also be charging higher prices, making them less competitive – despite perhaps the product being better.
CEO of the Association, Robin Schneider, has also suggested that some Michigan marijuana have attempted to get a licence, but have faced delays at the hands of others, or have been denied. However, it’s safe to say that the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association want the matter resolved as swiftly as everyone else.
So, is it time for the laws to change, for licensed to be mandatory and unlawful operators to be punished? Perhaps. And it appears that we all have until June 1 to find out whether the Michigan marijuana market is changing for the better.