Medical Marijuana Licensing Drags On–Are State Regulators Prepared for Legalization?

State regulators are struggling to finish reviews of medical marijuana applications.

Cheyna Roth/MPRN

People who want a license to grow or sell medical marijuana in Michigan have yet more uncertainty to deal with when it comes to getting licensed.

People with medical marijuana businesses had until mid-February to get their applications to the state if they wanted to stay open while they waited for a license. If they did, they got a grace period and could stay open until June 15th. The thinking was that the state would, hopefully, be able to get them their licenses by that time.

But the state says it might not get through all those applications in time – more than 300 of them.

“We emphasized from the beginning that early submission and complete submission would be critical for timely licensure,” said Andrew Brisbo, director of the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation.

Brisbo said the applications are being reviewed in the order they were received, and there was a big increase in submitted applications right before the deadline.

The department doesn’t plan to send out cease and desist orders or alert law enforcement to shops, if those shops have a pending application that was submitted by the February deadline. However, the board in charge of granting or denying licenses could use a shop’s decision to stay open against them when ultimately deciding if they’ll get a license.

Jake Neher/WDET

The department essentially prepares the application – verifies the information submitted and conducts background checks, for example – for a board that ultimately decides whether or not a person or organization gets a license. That process can take a long time, and Brisbo said the department doesn’t plan to try and speed up the process.

“It’s just gonna result in more questions [by the board] and requesting additional information so for us to push things forward faster I don’t think is gonna achieve the desired result there,” he said.

Brisbo said Michigan could see its first licensed medical marijuana business up and running within the next month to month-and-a-half.

This delay in processing applications has brought up another important question — are state regulators prepared for the possible legalization of recreational marijuana?

The State Board of Canvassers recently certified a petition-initiated proposal that would legalize marijuana and regulate it like alcohol.

Barring any legal problems, that proposal will either be approved by the Legislature — which is unlikely — or go to the statewide ballot in November.

“We’ll need to be prepared should that pass to implement any portions of that that would apply to our agency,” says Brisbo.

WDET’s Jake Neher and Michigan Public Radio’s Cheyna Roth talk about what the licensing delays mean for legalization efforts in Michigan. Click on the audio player above to hear that conversation.

Related stories:
Michigan Should Have No Shortage of Marijuana
Will Republicans in Lansing Pass Pot Legalization To Preempt Ballot Proposal?
How AG Sessions’ Marijuana Reversal Will Affect Michigan


  • Cheyna Roth
    Cheyna has interned with Michigan Radio and freelanced for WKAR public radio in Lansing. She's also done some online freelancing and worked on documentary films.
  • Jake Neher
    Jake Neher is senior producer for Detroit Today and host of MichMash for 101.9 WDET. He previously reported on the Michigan Legislature for the Michigan Public Radio Network.