Michigan Creates New Marijuana Oversight Agency

I can see clearly now the rain is gone
I can see all obstacles in my way
Gone are the dark clouds that had me blind
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sun-shining day
It's gonna be a bright (bright)
Bright (bright) sun-shining day

I Can See Clearly Now 
 Johnny Nash

On March 1, 2019, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2019-7 that changes the direction of the regulation of cannabis in Michigan.

Effective April 30, the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board (Board), the Marihuana Advisory Panel and the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation will be abolished. The newly-formed Marijuana Regulatory Agency (Agency) will usher in future regulation of cannabis, whether medical or recreational. The Department of Agriculture and Rural Development will establish rules and standards for industrial hemp.

Gov. Whitmer will appoint an executive director to oversee the Agency, the appointment of whom requires advice and consent from the state’s senate. The appointee will be subject to extremely onerous financial disclosure requirements. In addition, he or she will not be able to be employed, directly or indirectly, by any cannabis business for a period of four years following the executive director’s term. Among the executive director’s duties are the appointment of employees, holding at least four public meetings a year and establishing advisory work groups.

The executive order provides that any rule, order, contract or agreement established by any predecessor department or board remains in effect until the new Agency changes or rescinds it. Until such time as new rules or procedures are developed, we will continue to operate under the existing regulatory regime.

What happens while we wait for the effective date of the new Agency? Applicants have submitted their applications, which are being reviewed by the analysts under the prior system. The Board will reportedly still conduct its regular meetings in March and April, at which applications will presumably be considered, as before. But after the April meeting, the Board will give way to the new Agency and licensing decisions will be made by the Agency.

Why did the Governor take this action? Cannabis patients and the regulated community have long complained about the delays associated with obtaining licenses. Some associated those delays with the Board.

Whether that analysis is fair or not, Gov. Whitmer seeks to streamline the process under the new Agency. With the advent of recreational cannabis, the strains on the existing regulatory infrastructure will only increase. The new Agency seems like a step in the right direction to provide quicker, but still thorough, review of this industry.

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