MI: Acme Issues First Pot Licenses

Photo Credit: David Horemans

Medical marijuana entrepreneurs looking to take root in Acme Township reaped their first formal approval.

Township Planning and Zoning Administrator Shawn Winter said he recently issued 16 licenses for newly legal businesses like dispensaries, testing labs and growers. That’s out of the nearly 60 applications received, although there were a few left on the table from the 20 available.

“The greatest interest across the board was for grower, processor and provisioning center,” he said. “In fact, we still have two safety compliance and two secure transporter licenses still available.”

Acme Township trustees voted in October to allow the five types of businesses listed in the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. State law requires local governments to opt in, and now the township could be getting five growers, five processors, three dispensaries, one testing lab and one secure transporter.

Recipients of three of the licenses are no strangers to the township’s business scene. MI Local Hops co-owners Jason Warren and Mark Johnson received one license each for processing, testing and transport businesses. These beer ingredient growers could hop into certain segments of the prescription pot industry.

Warren said MI Local Hops already does much of the same testing on its hops as what medical marijuana requires. The company also has a fleet of trucks for taking its harvest to its customers — Warren said he probably won’t use the processing license.

“We haven’t really put together any formal plans for anything, but our role would be more of a support role as far as lab and transportation,” he said. “That’s the only two things we have any interest in working in, because both lab and transport both fit in with what we’re already doing out here with hops.”

Doing so would allow the business to spread the cost of its assets over more testing and transport, Warren said. He and Johnson applied for the licenses to preserve their ability to give the medical marijuana business a try, and they likely won’t decide until after the September harvest.

Acme Township officials used a lottery when there were more applications than licenses available, Winter said. Some applicants apparently formed multiple companies to apply more than once, but nothing in the township ordinance precluded them from doing so — state law exempts these applications from Freedom of Information Act requests.

“So that was a lesson learned, and it’s probably something we’ll address before the next application period through the ordinance,” he said.

Current township licenses expire in December 2019 and require annual renewal, Winter said. Anyone who fails to renew would need to start over, and could need to go through another license lottery if there are more applications than openings.

Warren said he thought the township’s application process was a straightforward and fair one.

Business owners with township license in hand now face the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs approval process. A department bulletin states that the process is a lengthy one that could require applicants to submit thousands of pages of financial records, undergo background checks and more

David Harns, a spokesperson for LARA’s Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, said those applications are being processed in the order in which they arrived. There’s no timeline on how long the process could take.

Warren said he and Johnson haven’t submitted anything to the state yet. He noted the rush of people looking to meet a township licensing requirement that they own, or have an option to buy, township property. MI Local Hops had four offers to buy pieces of its land as the township’s application deadline approached.

“We had a lot of people clamoring for land that we own out here to try to apply for licenses too,” he said.