The September 2016 Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (“MMFLA”) provides for the appointment of a five-person licensing Board to administer the licensing process and ensure compliance with the MMFLA. While many in the industry had hoped these appointments would have been made sooner, that’s all history now. There is now a Board and it’s time to get rules and regulations in place as well as establish procedures for the licensing process and industry operations.
We have been attending municipal meetings around the state to advocate for the adoption of ordinances authorizing facilities (the so-called “Opt In” ordinances). One major concern we have heard from Planning Commissions and Township Boards is a fear of adopting an ordinance that is later found to conflict with the rules and regulations the Board may establish. This has caused many local governments to take a “wait and see” approach and to not move forward with adopting an ordinance. That, in turn, is clearly slowing down the planning and implementation processes for many potential license-holders.
MMFLA Recap; Sections 302, 303
Now that the Board is in place, we should expect to soon see the rules and regulations called for under the MMFLA. To recap, those rules and regulations will be designed to facilitate discharge of the Board’s duties and the exercise of its powers under sections 302 and 303 of the MMFLA, which include:
- Granting or denying each application;
- Deciding all license applications in reasonable order;
- Implementing and collecting the application fee . . . and regulatory assessment;
- Providing oversight of a marihuana facility . . . for the purpose of certifying the revenue, receiving complaints from the public, or conducting investigations into the operation of the marihuana facility . . . to protect and promote the overall safety, security, and integrity of the operation of a marihuana facility;
- Ensure that marihuana-infused products meet health and safety standards;
- Investigate all individuals employed by marihuana facilities;
- Through its investigators and agents, to . . . enter the premises, offices, facilities, or other places of business of a licensee; and
- Take any other reasonable or appropriate action to enforce the MMFLA and rules.
Meet the New Board
The initial Board consists of five individuals appointed by the Governor to hold up to four-year terms in office (which will be staggered for this initial Board between two, three, and four years). Two of the five are taken from lists of nominees submitted to the Governor by legislative leaders, and the other three were directly chosen. The political parties represented are three Republicans and two Independents.
The Chairman of the Board, Rick Johnson of Leroy, is a former Michigan legislator and was a member of the Lansing lobbying firm, Dodak, Johnson & Associates. Two other Board members are associated with law enforcement – one a retired Michigan State Police officer and the other an executive board member of the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan. The final two members are a licensed pharmacist with employment experience in Walgreens and a public policy consultant who served as President of the General Motors Foundation.
Prior to these appointments, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had already begun to prepare possible rules and regulations that the Board could consider. LARA solicited input from attorneys (we were privileged to be asked to participate) and industry experts on license stacking —under which one applicant could seek several licenses to “stack” them into a larger organization—as well as the types of testing protocols labs should be required to establish, and whether to transition medicine from the MMMA to the MMFLA. In addition, LARA created the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulations to execute the MMFLA and selected Franwell, Inc., a technology company, to administer the seed-to-sale monitoring and tracking system.
So, What Now?
If the examples from other states that have established medical marijuana regulatory departments are any indication, there will certainly be a few bumps on the road Michigan is now traveling. Hopefully, this Board will investigate what has worked and what has not in those other states and learn from experience. We are looking forward to seeing the first work of this new Board and working with them to help establish this new industry.