Michigan Approves 16 Medical Marijuana Licenses but It’s Not Enough

Michigan’s medical marijuana regulations are moving full steam ahead.  This month, the state board approved 16 medical licenses across all stages of the system including dispensaries, testing labs and growers. Still, there’s some concern that not enough licenses have been approved to take care of patients. And that’s a problem considering that on September 15, any marijuana business that doesn’t have a license will have to close.

So far, the September 15 deadline is hard and fast, even though a group of Michigan lawmakers has asked Governor Rick Snyder for an extension. The issue is that 347 applications are only in the second step of the state’s process and hundreds more are in the prequalification phase, which means more time is needed to keep the medical marijuana system running smoothly.

At this point, once the deadline hits, any marijuana business without a license will receive a cease-and-desist letter to make sure they close. State officials have been adamant that they won’t extend the deadline further, especially since it was already extended once from June 15.

As for the concern that there won’t be enough businesses running with licenses once September 15 hits, the state board isn’t concerned. David Harns, a spokesperson for the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation told Michigan Radio that there should be enough open dispensaries to meet the need. He went on to explain that two-thirds of medical marijuana cardholders live within 30 miles of a licensed facility.

Still, that’s not helping ease patient or industry fears. Michigan has more than 290,000-registered marijuana patients for only seven dispensaries, four growers, two processors, two testing labs and one transport company. That’s a very small number of businesses to meet the needs of so many individuals, particularly when more than 637 businesses are still waiting for their licenses.

In the letter to the state board, Michigan lawmakers pointed out this discrepancy saying, “It is not acceptable to allow a bureaucratic delay to bankrupt law-abiding small businesses, to destroy jobs and to deny epileptic children and disabled veterans access to the medicines they need.”

Unfortunately, the argument is falling on deaf ears. Andrew Brisbo, the director of Michigan’s Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation, told MLive that there are enough licenses.

“The intention of the temporary operation rule was to provide temporary patient access. Now that we have licenses in the system, albeit a small number of licenses—I’ll grant you that—there is still access,” Brisbo said. “At this point, based on our calculations, two-thirds of the patients in Michigan live in a county that’s within 30 miles of a licensed provisioning center.”

So, we’ll have to wait and see what happens as the September 15 deadline draws near, but Michigan patients and businesses shouldn’t expect an extension. The only hope is that more licenses and preliminary approvals will be considered at the board’s next meeting on September 10.

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