Michigan's medical marijuana market is facing a serious supply shortage, so the state is turning to the black market to solve it.
All unlicensed cannabis businesses in Michigan were forced to close on December 31, leaving patients with few places to legally buy medical marijuana. To fight this issue, the Michigan Medical Marihuana Licensing Board will temporarily allow unlicensed dispensaries to re-open at the request of Michigan's new governor Gretchen Whitmer (D). A
Experts say the move should go a long way to rectifying the supply problems.
"There is a shortage of supply in the market because there are only a handful of licensed growers in Michigan," Jeff Schroder - an attorney with the Plunkett Cooney law firm in Bloomfield Hills, MI - told Click On Detroit. "This would allow dispensaries and retail provisioning centers to purchase their quantities from caregivers again.
But the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association is urging Whitmer to streamline the application process so that fully licensed cannabis businesses will be far more abundant.
"It is important to keep in mind, however, that this is a temporary solution and that there is still much more work to do to get more businesses licensed and operational," The Associations' executive director Robin Schneider told The Oakland Press. "We look forward to working with the department and Gov. Whitmer's administration to improve the application process to ensure that we do not have supply shortages moving forward."
The approach taken by the Michigan officials is markedly different than the one taken in Canada, which is also struggling with nationwide supply shortages for recreational cannabis. In all Canadian provinces, illicit dispensaries that were operating before cannabis was legalized in October have been told to close down, and in many places, the owners of these illegal storefronts have been barred from entering the business legally.
However, there are a few differences between the unlicensed dispensaries that are being allowed to re-open in Michigan and the ones barred from the Canadian market place.
Early last year Michigan officials began shutting down legal medical marijuana businesses, leaving the state with an exceedingly small number of places for patients to legally source their medication. The mass shutdowns stemmed from a 2016 bill that changed the criteria dispensaries need to meet in order to operate, so all active cannabis businesses had to re-apply for their licenses. All businesses that had not been re-approved were forced to close on December 31, 2018. Only business that have already re-applied for their licenses, but were not re-approved by the deadline, are being allowed to re-open.