Looking to get into the Michigan cannabis industry? You may have to hurry up and maybe wait. The licensing process to grow, process, sell, test and transport cannabis in Michigan has gone through myriad changes since its inception.
In 2018 The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulations (BMMR) created a two-step process that is still in use today. The ‘old’ process included the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board which was tasked with the unenviable job of publicly reviewing, discussing and determining the fate of each application that made it to their table. After taking office in 2019 Governor Whitmer disbanded the much-maligned (at no fault of their own) Board and created the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) which uses an internal staff review system instead of an independent board.
When the MRA went into effect in the spring of 2019, the procedures and requirements for licensure were reviewed and updated. New application forms and designations were put into place. At that time, the financial statement requirements were reduced from 36 months to 12 months and has now been eliminated. This alone reduced the time applicants needed to acquire, organize, and review those statements for submission and in turn reduced the time analysts spent reviewing that paperwork for approval. This financial disclosure was also a hurdle that invariably kept many people from applying due to the depth of the financial review. Currently, an MMFLA Step 1 applicant can (not will) be Prequalified in about 6-8 weeks, MRTMA Step 1 applicant in about 2 weeks. Step 2 is determined by when the facility is ready, and Step 2 prequalification takes days instead of weeks as the process has been condensed.
On November 6, 2018, the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA) was voted in by the people of Michigan; and one month later possession and use of marijuana became legal in Michigan. And on November 1, 2019, the window opened at the state for Adult Use Establishment applications. This process was simplified for the most part because you had to be an MMFLA licensee to apply for all but 2 of the grow licenses. But there was an obstacle and it continues today—very few municipalities have opted in to allow Adult Use establishments in their communities. While that list is ever-expanding there is still a long way to go before cannabis is available across Michigan.
Which Brings us to the Hurry up and Wait.
Each municipality has its own application and licensing process. Some are simple and offer very little resistance and some are almost as intense as the state process. Take the City of Battle Creek for example. They too have a 2-part application process that mimics the state. The first part investigates the individuals and the 2nd facility. Currently, we are working with a client to transition their Battle Creek provisioning center into a co-located medical/adult-use establishment. In normal times this was a somewhat frustrating situation because you were holding two state licenses but there is still the 2nd part of the City process which involves more inspections and city department heads to sign off. Now enter the Covid-19 pandemic; employees are furloughed, departments effectively shut down and hours greatly reduced. Timelines are extended, deadlines are frustratingly but understandably missed, and the stars must align for everyone to be able to sign off and issue the license. Remember it’s not over until the municipality gets you on board.
Our Watchword for People Wanting to be Part of the Michigan Cannabis Industry:
This blog was written by Pete Simmons, Paralegal for Cannalex Law.