It might have been a bit of female hubris, or thinking, how hard could it be? But, making it through the application process for adult-use recreational marijuana business licensing isn’t for the faint of heart nor to be taken lightly. I learned a pretty hard lesson when I applied for my Marijuana Event Organizer (MEO) license. Part of the issue is the money at stake—for my license, it was $4500 to make an application and $750 when approved for the actual license.
The online application system for licensing isn’t intuitive, nor has Michigan given much thought to user experience. Unlike other websites where the company wants you to understand the process and not become frustrated, it feels like the LARA -MRA website is out to test your patience and grit.
I’ll be the first to admit that I jumped into the application without reading the 104-page instruction booklet for applicants. I honestly didn’t know it existed, and I did, though, use the provided checklist, which I thought would suffice.
I also didn’t take advantage of a resource that was offered to me—assistance from the Social Equity team at the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA). Because of where I live (Muskegon) had in the past an above-average number of marijuana arrests I qualified for a discounted application fee. Had I been more carefully reading the materials sent to me, I would have saved myself some time, effort and stress.
The stress came within a few days of hitting the submit button on my application and paying my application fee. An email with nine deficiencies. Nine!
When I hit the submit button, I was sure that I was a slam dunk with this application. I read over the list, and my frustration grew—some of the deficiencies were small mistakes—I submitted fillable PDFs that I didn’t save correctly. Others were more significant errors. I didn’t list my husband as a co-applicant (because in Michigan, all married people are co-applicants) on my paperwork. Other mistakes were harder for me to understand, notarized information from the Michigan Treasury, for instance. I’d made a mess, and I was in a full-blown panic about how to get out of it. The letter from the MRA told me I had five days to correct my deficiencies, or I could be in jeopardy of losing my application fee.
That was not going to happen. It was time to call for help.
There is a certain amount of irony in this entire situation—I’m an insider. I know people, like Ben Wrigley and Pete Simmons from Cannalex Law, who work with prospective marijuana licensees every day. I’ve talked with other people who went through licensing, and I knew it was tough. Pretty much everyone hires an expert to help them navigate the marijuana licensing system. I don’t know why I was so confident that I was the exception. Maybe I thought an MEO license was less complex than a provisioning center or a grow. I was off on that assumption.
Paralegal Pete Simmons was the navigator—he knows the recreational marijuana business licensing process. He reviewed my documents and corrected the deficiencies and helped me understand where I’d gone astray. He was on the phone with my analyst, seeking clarification. His expertise and knowledge of the MRA application system was immensely helpful and gave me confidence in my revised application. Without a doubt, I could not have been able to understand and make those corrections without help.
The background check took longer than I expected—COVID 19 was in its early stages at this point, and it didn’t feel like it was moving at all. The results from it were oddly surprising. I was asked to address my Little Free Library and every job I ever had and some other internet connections. It felt like the background check was an in-depth google search with Facebook information added. I was able to clear that up, and my MEO license came through a few days later.
Unfortunately, until COVID 19 is gone (alleviated, vaccinated or cured), there will be no marijuana events in Michigan. But the license is there, and I’m ready to make a splash when the time is right.
Roberta F. King, APR owns Canna Communication.