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Even the Best Laid Plans.....

Medical Marijuana Patients May be Left Without Meds September 15

Earlier this year LARA enacted emergency rules to allow currently operating medical marijuana facilities to remain open, provided they had permission from the local municipality.   The emergency rule was enacted because at the time of the previous licensing deadline no medical marijuana facilities had received state licensing. There are currently 215 businesses operating with these temporary licenses

In a May 30 statement regarding the emergency rules, LARA Director Shelly Edgerton said that by extending the deadline to Sept. 15, we can make sure the law is implemented correctly and assure that potential licensees are thoroughly reviewed. She also stated that it is important that medical marijuana patients have access to their medicine.

At the time they felt that a 92-day extension would allow for enough time to investigate and authorize operator licenses and to ensure that access to medical marijuana is not hindered. As of today, it appears that the board has grossly underestimated the amount of time it would take to review all applications to ensure that there will be no disruptions in service

Recently the state has announced that they will not extend the emergency rules past the self-imposed September 15 deadline.  David Harns, spokesman for the BMMR said "The Temporary Operation initiative was not designed to act as a conditional license for businesses that were looking to move into the new, regulated market. It was intended as a short-term solution with the goal of maintaining patient access while we moved applicants through the licensing process - and that objective has been met,"

Harns said that their objective was met, however as of the August 9 BMMR meeting, only 16 licenses have been issued. These licenses include 7 provisioning centers, 2 processors, 2 safety compliance license, 4 grower licenses (to one company) and 1 secure transporter.  The next meeting is scheduled for September 10. Before this date, the board will need to review many applications and issue many licenses to serve the needs of the over 240,000 medical card holders and caregivers in the state.

The map below is from an Aug. 13 MLive article and shows the location of the licenses which have been issued. This map shows that unless you are in the Detroit or Lansing area, you will need to travel quite a distance to be able to get your medication.

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Once the September 15 Emergency Rules deadline passes many patients will likely be left without a place to purchase their medications.

These patients will have a hard time even if they find a facility that has been licensed as there may not be any product to sell them.  Rocky Thomas, the owner of State Line Wellness Center in Morenci, said doesn't think he'll have any product to sell come Sept. 15 if he receives his license in time. The license for State Line has been tabled by the board. "There will be no product for me to legally access, therefore I will just have to shut the door," Thomas said. "It's the cart before the horse."

Thomas said State Line serves 3,800 patients -- three-quarters of which are older than 50.

"They're fighting glaucoma, they're fighting opiate addictions," Thomas said. "They are cancer victims fighting without chemo -- and they're actually winning."

The businesses currently operating under the emergency rules will need to close shop if they do not receive a license from the state by the Sept. 15 deadline.  Operating without a state license could be a considered a business risk by the licensing board and noncompliance will be grounds for disciplinary action and referral to law enforcement.

Connie Maxim-Sparrow represents dozens of clients who have been stuck in the state bureaucracy of the first step in the licensing process since February. “The state is not making it easy,” Sparrow said.  “Key hurdles have included bureaucracy and the state’s expectation of liquid finances.” She also believes that another six-month extension beyond the Sept. 15 deadline is necessary.

Why has there been such a delay in the licensing process?  To begin with, the application is long and requires background checks both criminally and financially.  The state is reviewing the licensing applications from the businesses currently operating under the emergency rule as well as close to 600 new applications.  David Harns also mentions that other factors have slowed the process including 230 applicants that did not have completed applications by the deadline.

Whatever the cause for the delay in issuing licenses, it is the patients that will be left without access to the medication they need.

Rose Jacobsen