Medical marijuana licensing rate doubles as the state prepares for recreational applications

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LANSING, MI (WILX) - Lawsuits are plaguing Michigan's marijuana market, with the latest being a cancer patient suing Michigan over access to medical marijuana.

With confusion around both medical and recreational marijuana applications, the recently centralized, Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) held a public meeting on Thursday to hear concerns.

Shortages and lack of access to marijuana were the two major concerns during the public comment portion.

But the executive director of the Marijuana Regulatory Agency says they are making supply and access process in the regulatory market.

"We are seeing that there are more plants in production," said Andrew Brisbo, MRA Executive Director. "We have more licenses issued to growers now which are starting to improve the amount of product that is working through the supply chain, but we will keep moderating that to make sure we have adequate product in the right system."

In order to help those looking to get a medical marijuana license, the MRA has significantly decreased their processing time.

Since the Governor formed of the MRA seven weeks ago, there have been 122% increase in pre-qualifications and a 100% increase in state operating licenses as compared to the previous seven months.

"The amount of paperwork we require at the front end has been reduced as we become more familiar with this process," said Brisbo. "Now we see which documents and what pieces lead to results in terms of decision making."

Those applying for medical marijuana licenses now only have to provide financial statements over the past year, as opposed to three years.

The criminal history disclosure on the application has also been modified.

"We specifically exempt traffic violations from the form," said Kristie Jordan, the Medical Facilities Licensing Section Manager. "You still have to report all misdemeanors and all felonies, except those that are traffic violations."

On Thursday, some of these changes were applauded...

"Things are moving a lot better now," said an audience member told during public comment. "You are moving fast. You are more friendly, everything just seems to becoming together."

While others found the fact that dispensaries and provisioning centers can no longer buy cannabis products directly from caregivers, concerning.

"I have to cut my medication in half because it just isn't out there anymore because we were denied by the caregiver system," said an audience member who uses medical marijuana for her MS conditions.

But the MRA is allowing caregivers to sell their marijuana to licensed growers and processors, who must test it before selling it to shops.

"There are often comments that say we got rid of the caregiver system, the system still exists," said Brisbo. "Patients can still utilize caregivers, patients are still authorized under the 2008 Act to grow their own plants and produce their own products so that option is still available."

As of Thursday there are 202 active state operating licenses in the medical marijuana industry.

The MRA says will start accepting recreational marijuana business licenses this fall.

The MRA will take use the rest of June to issue a preview of its recreational marijuana rules with the intention to give municipalities and potential business owners guidance as they prepare for recreational marijuana applications.

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