Medical cannabis is legal, right now, in Michigan. But so far, the state’s program has been operating under emergency rules as regulators and operators get their ducks in a row. Like licensing processes in other states, Michigan has seen its share of controversy and setbacks. Still, in recent months, the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs has issued licenses to caregivers, processors, producers and dispensaries. But until today, regulators had not approved any medical cannabis testing facilities. Testing facilities are crucial in the supply chain, and they’ve been the missing piece of the equation in Michigan. Now that the state has approved a pair of them, however, its MMJ program can finally get underway.
Michigan’s Medical Cannabis Program Is Finally Ready To Start
In its monthly meeting on Thursday, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board approved a total of nine license applications. Six went to dispensary applicants, one to a processing facility that’s already operating with four grow licenses, and two went to testing facilities.
Iron Laboratories in Walled Lake and Precision Safety Innovation Laboratories in Ann Arbor will be Michigan’s first medical cannabis testing facilities. And once they receive their paperwork, both can begin testing botanical cannabis and cannabis-infused products.
Ultimately, those products will end up on dispensary shelves. Or as Michigan law officially terms them, “provisioning centers.” Michigan’s medical cannabis law prohibits retailers from calling themselves anything else.
Licensing the two testing facilities also means that other segments of the industry can begin operating with confidence. According to the CEO of Precision Safety Innovation Labs, Michigan has the second-largest medical cannabis patient population in the country.
Michigan Dispensaries Jockey For Licenses Under Emergency Rules
Meanwhile, dispensary operators continue to tango with the licensing board. As has happened in Ohio and elsewhere, rejected applicants are appealing the board’s decision. Complaints range from biased considerations to politically motivated rejections by the entirely Republican-backed licensing board.
What makes Michigan’s situation unique, however, is the fact that rejected dispensaries had been operating under the state’s emergency medical cannabis rules while their applications were under consideration. About 230 dispensaries are currently operating without having received licenses from the state.
Dispensary Shutdown Deadline Looms Ahead of November Election
But by September 15, any dispensary that hasn’t received an operating license will have to shut down until they’re awarded one. And those shutdowns, medical cannabis advocates say, could limit access and availability for Michigan patients.
That, in turn, could motivate patients, in particular, to flock to the polls in November. There are currently 285,224 people with medical cannabis cards in Michigan.
Michigan could still put a question to legalize cannabis for adult use on the November ballot. Failing that, an increased voter turnout has a statistically higher likelihood of electing Democrats. Flipping the state legislature blue could shake up the licensing board, impacting who gets licenses and who doesn’t.