There are dozens of medical marijuana dispensaries in cities across Michigan, and Detroit has 61 marijuana shops open for business. However, by this time next year, the landscape for marijuana around the state could be completely different. That’s when the state will start officially handing out licenses to cultivators, testing facilities, transporters, and dispensaries.
The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) is beginning to gear up for the task of regulating a new, and potentially very lucrative, business in the state. The medical marijuana business is projected to generate revenues of more than $700 million, and if a ballot proposal goes to voters in 2018 and the market is opened for recreational use, too, those revenues will easily surpass $1 billion. Shelly Edgerton, director of LARA stated, “Most states have had two years to get this going. For us, this is a huge endeavor.”
Andrew Brisbo, who has served as LARA’s licensing division director, has been named as the director of the newly created Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation. He will be in charge of the department that could grow to nearly 100 employees who investigate all license applicants and ultimately regulate the medical marijuana business and administer the system that tracks medical marijuana from seed to sale.
LARA approved a $447,625 contract with a Florida based company to provide the monitoring system. They also provides a similar service to Colorado, which was the first state to legalize recreational marijuana. Right now, there are 240,000 people who have gotten medical marijuana cards that allow them to use weed legally to treat a variety of conditions. They are served by 40,000 state-approved caregivers, who can grow up to 12 plants for each patient and who are allowed up to five patients each.
The new law keeps that system in place but also creates five categories of medical marijuana licenses for cultivators of up to 1,500 plants, testing facilities, transporters, dispensaries and the seed-to-sale tracking. The dispensaries will be taxed 3 percent on their gross receipts, and that money will go back to the state and local communities. The state is still coming up with an application and licensing fee schedule, which will cover the cost of regulating the industry, an estimated $18.6 million, according to Governor Rick Snyder’s budget proposal for the department.