Medical Marijuana Business Bids Backing Up: Michigan Adds More Licensing Meetings

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When Michigan’s medical marijuana licensing board couldn’t come to a consensus on the first two applications for licenses to transport and sell cannabis, regulators realized that getting applications through a new licensing process was going to be harder than they anticipated.

So instead of the five meetings set for the rest of the year, the board added two meetings to its schedule on Tuesday to tackle the hundreds of license applications that are pending.

The timing of the meetings — one in April and two in May — is particularly crucial for 215 marijuana businesses across the state who face a June 15 deadline before their temporary operating status expires. If they haven’t gotten a state license and approval from communities that have passed medical marijuana ordinances by then, they’ll have to shut down.

“The main reason we’re adding the meetings is to get through more applications and pre-qualifications in a quicker time frame,” said David Harns, spokesman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

On Thursday, the board deadlocked 2-2 on two applications, one from a Gratiot County resident who wanted to start a business to transport marijuana from growers to processors, testing facilities and dispensaries, and the other from a Detroit business owner who wanted to open a dispensary.

Both had misdemeanor crimes on their record — one that was 20 years old and the other that was a possession of marijuana charge that had been expunged from his record —that they hadn’t disclosed in their applications. Neither of the charges would have disqualified them from getting a license, but those opposed to their applications – board members Don Bailey and Rick Johnson – said the omission was enough to secure their no vote.

The two applicants are expected to ask the board to reconsider their requests. And if all five board members are in attendance at the next meeting on April 19, the applications could get approved.

So far, 411 applications have been submitted for pre-qualification approval, which means they’re still waiting for approval from the community where they want to locate. Another 141 applicants — 57 growers, 21 processors, 57 dispensaries, two 2 transporters and four 4 testing facilities — have submitted full applications that include approval from their communities.

People began submitting applications on Dec. 15 and background checks on the people involved in those businesses are taking longer than anticipated, said Andrew Brisbo, director of the state’s Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation.

“The vast majority waited until the last day (Feb. 15) that they were eligible to apply and continue operating,” he said. “We got 174 applications on the last day to apply, so it’s going to be a quick turnaround to get through those.”

To try and speed up the licensing a bit, the state will begin delivering instructions to the 215 businesses that are temporarily operating with approval from their communities about what they can expect when their turn for a license approval comes up.

Included in those instructions are inspections of their facilities and the requirement that owners do criminal background checks on all employees that they plan to hire.

Among the other things applicants will be told:

• No drive-through dispensaries will be allowed and neither will marijuana sales through the mail

• Any change of location for a medical marijuana facility will have to go through the licensing process again, including the $6,000 application fee and the imposition of the regulatory assessment, which ranges from $10,000 to $48,000

• Every marijuana-infused product must have a label that includes the amount of THC in the product and be properly labeled with the state’s medical marijuana logo

• If medical marijuana is being grown outside, it must be enclosed by fences or other barriers that block the view of the plant

• Dispensaries cannot sell alcohol or tobacco products and can’t allow doctors to examine or provide medical marijuana cards to individuals at the dispensary

• Dispensaries can sell medical marijuana to both qualified card holders and visitors from other states where medical marijuana has been legalized

• Drivers for secure transport companies must have chauffeur licenses and always work in teams of two, with one person remaining in the vehicle at all times

The next licensing board meeting when license applications will be considered will be 9 a.m. April 19 in Lansing.