Michigan’s medical marijuana program has been facing some serious shortages so far in 2019. And that has left patients and regulators scrambling for solutions. Now, the state has agreed to let unlicensed growers and dispensaries, including those currently in the process of completing the licensing process, to continue operating. The hope is that the additional suppliers will provide enough product until the state’s licensed growers and shops can adequately keep up with demand.
A Short-Term Solution to a Pressing Problem
Earlier today, Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board agreed to the stopgap measure. As outlined by the agency, provisioning centers and suppliers who are not fully current with all required state licenses will be allowed to operate for the next three months.
The objective is to address the state’s medical marijuana shortage. Since the beginning of the year, patients around the state have struggled to access their medicine.
This is primarily because of new changes to the state’s medical marijuana program. As of January 1, state officials closed 72 unlicensed provisioning centers. Additionally, the state is going through an ongoing shortage of licensed growers.
The combination of both of these has led to severe shortages throughout the state.
But now, under the newly instituted changes, provisioning centers that haven’t yet completed the licensing process can remain open.
Additionally, they can get their supply of product from smaller-scale caregivers or temporary growers, as opposed to waiting for large-scale, state-licensed commercial cultivators.
The owner of one of Michigan’s many unlicensed medical marijuana provision centers told Green Rush Daily that he believes they will be given more than three months to operate because of a lack of supply at prices patients can’t afford.
“Our new Governor Gretchen said that they have to allow these shops to reopen. The majority of licensed shops don’t even have the necessary amount of product for the patients. One licensed facility had to destroy a thousand of their plants because they tested positive for heavy metals that weren’t properly flushed out,” said Jeff, the owner of Double Dutch Flower Shop.
Additionally, he blames the way licensing is being done for the consequences patients are currently paying for.
“They’re giving license to people who are only in it for the money. The people doing licensing are only concerned with money, not the patients. They keep shutting shops down and opening them back up. It’s a mess. At licensed shops, patients are paying $35 to $60 an eighth for products that are being recalled for e.coli and other horrible things.”
Recalls, Shortages, and the Evolution of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Program
Michigan’s medical marijuana program has also seen at least three recalls in recent weeks. More specifically, the recalls came when lab tests found mold, yeast, e.coli and other contaminants in several batches of cannabis products being sold in at least two dispensaries.
The recalls added to the state’s shortage of medical marijuana. But, for many state regulators, the recall is also proof that the program is working the way it’s supposed to.
More specifically, regulators are pleased that tests quickly found the contaminated product. Similarly, they are happy that the program was able to implement a recall quickly and efficiently.
“This is the system working properly,” cannabis advocate Rick Thompson told local sources. “All the cannabis provided in 2018 was all from caregivers. If we didn’t hear of any illnesses in 2018, then it doesn’t rise to the level of an emergency or concern in my mind.”
Michigan has been in the process of overhauling its medical marijuana program for the past couple of years. And it’s been an up and down journey.
At one point in 2017, regulators thought about closing all dispensaries. The thought at the time was that this would give the state time to draft a new regulatory framework.
Fortunately for patients, that didn’t happen. Instead, the state has been rolling out new regulations and requirements while allowing dispensaries to remain in operation.
And hopefully, today’s move will ensure that patients can access medical marijuana while the state irons out its last remaining regulatory details. Ultimately, the goal is for the entire program to operate without relying on these types of interventions.