In November 2018, Michigan’s government helped push through voter efforts to legalize recreational marijuana use and distribution within specific legal parameters. The legislative change is only a small checkpoint in a longstanding timeline of events for the cannabis industry.
Due to the heavy role that the state’s government will continue to play as it relates to the modification of marijuana laws, a few individuals in the policy space came together Thursday at the Benzinga Cannabis Capital Conference to discuss the past, present and future of cannabis legality.
These individuals include two policy advisors to Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer—Josh Neyhart and Samuel Buchalter— along with MCIA’s Josh Hovey and Marijuana Policy Project’s Executive and Director Steve Hawkins. The panel was moderated by noted Michigan marijuana attorney Matthew Abel.
News From The Whitmer Organization
So what’s going on these days in the governor’s office regarding cannabis legislation?
“Today we announced that the rules for industrial hemp testing are in place, and we have them assigned in files and in effect now,” said Neyhart, which was the first time his department has been able to do this. With harvest coming up, these kinds of industrial regulations will be very helpful for farmers.
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Addressing The Medical Marijuana Shortage In Michigan
A relatively recent issue in the state has been a medical marijuana drought of sorts.
“The number one...issue raised is about supply. We’re working with the department. What we’re really trying to do is put in regulatory certainty,” Buchalter said. “And we are working to make sure that the licenses that have been issued have value and that the product is coming through that license process.”
More specifically, the shortage has been due to licensing of far more retail facilities than growers and sellers.
“It seems [like] very basic supply and demand, but the problem started off wrong from the very building,” said Hovey. He noted law changes regarding product testing and caregiver usage also can help fix the shortage.
“We’ve had many meetings with the state regulatory body and have not made any success where we’ve proposed to them to allow the caregiver product to be sold and tested, but, if it’s not tested, allowing the caregiver to take that product back and give it to their patients,” Hovey said. “Because right now, if it fails the test....the caregiver would have that product destroyed.”
Another political issue as it relates to the cannabis market is the location of the businesses themselves. Some argue that cannabis buildings should be spread far apart, while others believe that bar-strip format where stores would be lined up, creating a successful atmosphere in certain locations.
What’s the future of cannabis for the everyday consumer? According to Hawkins, cannabis businesses need to focus more on the government’s power as it relates to the creation of uniform regulations.
"Cannabis companies need to hire people to work on government affairs and do more work with organizations that are pushing for more favorable regulation for the industry in order to form a conduit to push for more uniform regulations and market efficiency," he said.
Steve Hawkins (far left), Sam Buchalter, Matt Abel (middle), Josh Hovey, Josh Neyhart (far right) speaking at the Cannabis Capital Conference in Detroit on Aug. 15. Photo by Dustin Blitchok.
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