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Thursday, March 29, 2018

Is the end in sight, for unlicensed canna businesses in Michigan? - Tim Beck

On Thursday March 15, officials from the "Michigan Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation" (BMMR), accompanied by Michigan State Police officers, paid a visit to 40 medical marijuana businesses across Michigan bearing 'cease and desist' orders. The Bureau said these entities did not comply with administrative rules requiring them to file a pre-qualification application for state licensing by the mandated deadline of February 15, 2018

A copy of the order was obtained by MMM Report Magazine. The order states in part the "BMMR demands that you immediately cease and desist from any activity in violation of Rule 19 and the MMFLA. Failure to comply with this notice may result in the denial of a license; referral to local, state, or federal law enforcement; and other penalties or sanctions provided in the MMFLA and Emergency Rules."

It should be no surprise the Bureau shoe has dropped. It has happened in other places.

In response to an "overproduction" crisis in Oregon, which caused a steep drop in cannabis wholesale prices and diminishing tax revenue; the State Legislature has stepped in. Caps are being placed on the amount of immature plants that persons responsible for small grow sites can possess. $1.25 million has been allocated to "address and prosecute unlawful marijuana cultivation and distribution operations." In addition, industrial hemp products sold by OLCC retailers must now contain labels that clearly identify whether their products are derived from hemp or marijuana.

Since the implementation of full blown cannabis legalization in California in January, the market is in chaos. Prices are dropping and a virtual war has broken out among licensed and unlicensed producers. In spite of devastating wild fires which swept through California last fall, destroying large numbers of cannabis grows, prices according to the "Cannabis Benchmarks Index" "were not enough to impact supply dynamics state wide, especially in a year that saw bounteous production otherwise." The report went on to say production in the "Emerald Triangle" in Mendocino, Humboldt and Trinity Counties made 2017 "the most favorable harvest season in years."

In an effort to cull the herd of unlicensed producers and vendors, California state government officials have demanded that "Weedmaps" stop publishing the names of unlicensed retail facilities. Beginning July 1st, all cannabis grown and sold in the state will have to conform to much stricter regulations, and the authorities have vowed to enforce the rules.

In an interview on March 21 with MMM Report, BMMR media spokesman David Harns said there will be "hundreds more businesses" receiving similar notices down the road. Mr Harns explained the Bureau will not be announcing who the targets are in advance, or "discussing the geography or time table" for their cease and desist campaign. However, he did acknowledge Detroit is not presently in the loop, given the convoluted politics in that City.

Mr. Harns went on to say the Bureau will eventually publish a list of the illegal businesses, for the entire world to view.

Reaction from the cannabis reform community to the BMMR action has been muted. No owner or employee of a facility facing problems with the Bureau, was interested in talking on record.

Jamie Lowell, co-founder of the very first medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan in 2009, and whose facility "Third Coast" in Ypsilanti is in compliance with the Bureau, said "this is not a big surprise. The State was very clear there would be a time frame. Perhaps they could have been more tolerant to give patients a greater time to adjust, but we all knew this day was coming."
Canna business entrepreneur Wes Crumby from Pinconning, who owns a number of facilities and ancillary cannabis business operations, explained that "LARA has been very fair" in how they have handled the matter. "Everyone knew how to qualify, and they (the Bureau) did not come in with swat teams" referring to the way state authorities were going about putting non compliant businesses on notice that their days are numbered.

In the final analysis, the illegal market for marijuana will not be going away, anymore than the moonshine industry in deep south USA will ever disappear. However, most adult beverage aficionados prefer the safety and convenience of a licensed liquor store to quench their thirst.

When full legalization becomes the norm in Michigan next year, the multitude of casual, recreational users, who just want to get high once in awhile, will not be going to illegal dealers. They will be patronizing the closest, safe, legitimate dispensary, hopefully in their own town or village.

In retrospect, I took my first toke of herb in September 1970, in a dorm room at the University of Detroit. Unlike some others of my generation, I never stopped using cannabis after all those years.

In the bad ole days of Ronald and Nancy Reagan's "just say no to drugs" campaign in the 1980's; stuff got real tough for some of us. Back then, I had to meet my connection in the "Mickey D's" parking lot somewhere in the hood in Detroit. I got out of there as fast as possible after I scored. That was the only alternative for some of us.

It is nice to see that day and age quickly receding in the rear view mirror.