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Cannabis businesses call on state regulators to fix Michigan's medical marijuana shortage

steve carmody
Michigan Radio

A new cannabis industry group is calling on state regulators to ease a medical marijuana shortage in Michigan.

The newly formed Michigan Cannabis Industry Association has a lot of issues to address, but the current shortage of medical marijuana products tops the list.

The shortage is a by-product of state regulators closing down more than half the state’s dispensaries at the beginning of the year over licensing issues. The number of medical marijuana dispensaries around the state has fallen, from more than 100 to less than 50. 

“With almost no access to medicine right now, we need solutions to be put in place immediately that allow patients to access their medical marijuana,” says Robin Schneider, the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association’s executive director.

A judge’s order blocking the state department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) from requiring dispensaries without a license to shut down expired Dec. 31.

“LARA acknowledges that there are temporarily operating medical marijuana facilities affected by the ending of the judge's recent temporary restraining order,” says LARA spokesman David Harns in a written statement, “We have received communication from medical marijuana stakeholders requesting that action be taken to address the problems caused by the removal of the stay and the department is in the process of determining whether continued operation in violation of current administrative rules could affect an applicant's future licensure.”

In the long-term, the association is working with elected officials to smooth the path to commercial sales of recreational marijuana next year.

Last November, Michiganvoters approved recreational marijuana use by a wide margin.   

The law took effect in December allowing individuals to possess small amounts of marijuana and grow up to 12 plants.  

Under the law, commercial sales will start in 2020. But the regulatory system for commercial sales of marijuana and cannabis products for recreational use remains to be worked out.  

“We’ve got to get medical marijuana first, otherwise we can’t expect the adult use program to be any better,” says Josh Hovey, spokesman for the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association. 

Michigan is among nearly a dozen states that allows recreational adult use of marijuana. It’s projected to be the second largest market for recreational marijuana sales in the nation, behind California. 

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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