LANSING – The much-criticized Medical Marihuana Licensing Board’s days are numbered after an executive order Governor Gretchen Whitmersigned Friday eliminating it and creating the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to handle medical and recreational pot moving forward.
Through the order, Whitmer eliminates the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and replaces it with the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to handle both medical and recreational marijuana. The new agency is a type one, which makes it more independent from the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
Gov. Gretchen Whitmer
Whitmer reached out to both House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) and Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) before signing the order abolishing the board, which was created by the Legislature in 2016. And based on reaction so far, it appears Executive Order 2019-7 is here to stay. It will take effect April 30 unless the Legislature overturns it though that seems unlikely.
Shirkey talked to Whitmer at length about the order and supports it, his spokesperson Amber McCann said. Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for Chatfield, said the speaker will allow the caucus to review the order before weighing in, but he appreciated Whitmer reaching out ahead of time.
“This executive order will eliminate inefficiencies that have made it difficult to meet the needs of Michigan’s medical marijuana patients,” Whitmer said in a statement. “All elements of this agency have been designed to serve and better protect Michigan residents, and I’m eager to have a unified effort across state departments to make sure this process runs effectively and efficiently.”
The licensing board has been meeting since 2017 and started issuing licenses last year. It has been criticized by many in the industry for a lack of efficiency, speed and some of the appointed members have also been criticized.
Former LARA Director Shelly Edgerton, who oversaw the first year of the board’s operation, said in a statement issued by Whitmer that the board has not been able to get the expected number of licenses into the market.
“With this EO, the licensing process will be more efficient and allow more applicants into the space,” Edgerton said. “I applaud Governor Whitmer for recognizing the need to expedite the regulated market for patient care and safety.”
The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association said the move will speed up medical marijuana licensing and better align the adult use and medical programs.
“We’re fully supportive of the governor’s decision,” Robin Schneider, executive director of the association, said in a statement. “This will streamline the licensing process and ensure it is fair. We have full faith in the professional staff at the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and LARA to do their jobs and create a safe and well-regulated market.”
Attorney General Dana Nessel also praised the move.
“A dedicated state agency that can administer the functions and responsibilities under the medical and recreational (adult-use) marijuana statutes will create numerous efficiencies, including faster processing of marijuana applications, and better serve medical marijuana patients and the developing industry,” Nessel said in a statement.
The new agency will handle all things related to marijuana instead of LARA, including the new adult use program. Industrial hemp regulations will be transferred to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.
An executive director will be named for the new agency, and it is unclear if current BMR Executive Director Andrew Brisbo will fill that roll or a new person. Whitmer Press Secretary Tiffany Brown said the administration had nothing to announce on that front when asked Brisbo would move to the new post.
The agency’s executive director will be required to file a financial disclosure statement with the governor that includes all assets, liabilities, property and business interests and sources of income for the executive director and their spouse, if they have one. The director would also be prohibited from working with or acquiring any direct or indirect interest in a marijuana establishment for four years after they are done serving the agency.
While the current board holds public hearings about once a month to issue licenses, the new agency will be required to hold at least four public meetings each year to hear complaints and take public comment.
Currently, the licensing board has two meetings planned before the April 30 effective date of its elimination. Ms. Brown said it is expected to continue meeting until then.
This story was published by Gongwer News Service.