Michigan Has Yet To License A Single Medical Marijuana Business

Photo Credit: William DeShazer

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder signed legislation to regulate the medical marijuana industry in September 2016. But a year and a half later, the state still hasn’t licensed a single cannabis business. Now, the licensing board is adding two more meetings to its schedule in an effort to expedite the process.

It’s unclear how effective two extra meetings will be in speeding up the licensing process. Last week, the Michigan Medical Licensing Board deadlocked on two applicants – each rejected by a 2-2 vote. Both were temporarily rejected for an application thanks to misdemeanors that hadn’t been disclosed.

Tim McGraw, who is seeking a dispensary license, got in trouble with the two board members thanks to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge that was expunged from his record. He disclosed a separate drunk driving ticket in his application, though.

“I wasn’t trying to hide it,” he told the Detroit Free Press, describing the process as “extremely confusing.” He said that he did not know he had to disclose the offense because it had already been removed from his record.

But McGraw will have another shot at a license during the board’s next meeting.

More than 400 people have submitted applications to get pre-approved while they seek community approval. More than 140 businesses have received community approval and submitted full applications.

Michigan has one of the largest medical marijuana programs in the nation – second only to California in terms of patient numbers. The program also received one of the highest grades from Americans for Safe Access. In a recent report, the patient advocacy organization scored the programs on patient rights, access, ease of navigation, functionality and consumer safety.

“If Michigan makes its emergency rules permanent, it will have one of the strongest programs in the country,” read the report. “However, good laws on paper do not always translate to quality patient access.”

Currently, the medical marijuana market is operating on temporary rules that will expire in June.

Many municipalities haven’t been nearly as lethargic at considering cannabis businesses within their borders. In recent weeks, four dispensaries have received zoning approval in Ann Arbor. Lansing approved its first medical marijuana business application on Wednesday. Any business that receives local approval still needs to obtain a state license.

But Detroit, the state’s most populous city, has been battling voter-approved marijuana initiatives and has delayed licensing every step of the way. It took an emergency order from the Michigan Court of Appeals in February to force the city to begin accepting applications. Those in the industry say that Detroit stands to lose millions by fighting voter-approved initiatives aimed at opening up the market.