The State of Medical Marijuana in Michigan
2020 Grade: B+
2019-2020 Improvements and Recommendations
Most of Michigan’s legislative and regulatory activity around cannabis in 2019-2020 has focused on adult-use due to the 2018 voter approval of a statewide ballot initiative Proposal 1. One significant deviation from this trend that patients should be aware of was the Marijuana Regulatory Agency’s March statement announcing the October 2020 phase-out of the current practice of caregivers growing and selling cannabis to licensed medical retailers. This is significant, as caregiver-grown cannabis still accounts for a sizable portion of the products sold to cannabis consumers across the Great Lake State.29. In its announcement MRA indicated that it will slowly phase out the sale of flower from caregivers to licensed retailers until October, when this practice will no longer be permitted. Patients should be prepared for potential product shortages and associated pricing increases. Michigan declared medical cannabis dispensaries essential as part of the state’s response to COVID, and authorized curbside pickup and delivery to keep patients safe.3031
As lawmakers look to 2021 ASA recommends addressing medical cannabis shortage and related price increases to ensure patients have consistent access to affordable medicine. ASA also urges lawmakers to work with local governments to license more medical cannabis retailers to improve patient access and reduce travel burdens on patients. Finally, ASA asks that Michigan lawmakers and regulators permanently maintain the medical cannabis-related COVID emergency measures implemented this year.
In 2008, Michigan voters passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which allows qualifying patients or their designated caregivers to cultivate up to 12 cannabis plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of usable cannabis. Patients certified by their doctor and registered with the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) are not subject to arrest or prosecution and are protected from civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business, occupational, or professional licensing board or bureau. Although dispensaries were not expressly permitted by law, several local jurisdictions allowed them to provide access to patients.
In September 2016, Governor Snyder signed three bills to improve the medical cannabis program. The first (HB 4210) went into effect immediately, and clarified that patients may possess cannabis extracts and infused products. The second, the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (HB 4209), created a program to license and regulate the cultivation, processing, transport, and distribution of medical cannabis. The Medical Marihuana Licensing Board and LARA issued emergency rules related to the measures in December 2017, which were in place for six months until final rules were approved in 2018.
In 2018, Michigan awarded its first set of medical cannabis business licences, which included licenses for medical retail facilities. In July of 2018, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that local governments may not restrict where medical cannabis growers can operate. That same year Michigan regulators added chronic pain, autism, arthritis, colitis and IBS, obsessive compulsive disorder, Parkinson’s, spinal cord injury and Tourette’s syndrome to the list of eligible conditions for enrollment in the state medical program. Cerebral palsy was added in 2019. In November 2018, the state issued new regulations that set maximum THC concentrations for edibles (50 mg per dose for edible products, 200 mg max per container) and authorized delivery from medical dispensaries to patients. Voters also approved the adult-use of cannabis in November of 2018 via Proposal 1.
In 2019, Michigan regulators issued updated detailed guidance about sampling and testing, as well as guidance about reciprocity for patients, reduced patient fees from $60 to $40 for program enrollment, and issued a number of recalls for unsafe products. That same year Governor Whitmer signed an executive order eliminating the existing medical cannabis licensing board (LARA) in favor of creating a new cannabis regulatory agency (Marijuana Regulatory Agency). Beyond administering cannabis business licensing and conducting regulatory oversight, MRA will direct social equity programs and develop regulations for new cannabis business types. Finally, in 2019 regulators approved waste and processing rules for cannabis and updated procedures to allow patients to immediately participate in the state’s program by registering on-line to receive a registry card.
Surveyed patients report that the quantity and variety of medical products offered at dispensaries have reduced since the adult-use program began. However, surveyed patients are pleased that more people are able to home cultivate and believe that this legal right helps reduce the cost burden on patients.