Governor Whitmer Issues Executive Order to Reform Michigan's Commercial Marijuana Licensing

In many ways, Michigan has been a leader in marijuana reforms. In 2008, Michigan voters overwhelmingly voted to adopt the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which approved the medical use of marijuana for those who suffer from serious and debilitating medical conditions. In 2016, the Michigan legislature and then-Governor Snyder enacted the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, which established a licensing and regulatory scheme to permit commercial medical marijuana businesses. Then, this past November, Michigan voters approved the enactment of the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act, which permits the adult recreational use of marijuana and establishes commercial licensing for recreational adult use businesses.

This past week, Governor Gretchen Whitmer issued Executive Order No. 2019-7 that should hopefully keep Michigan as a leader in the area of marijuana reform. With this Executive Order, Governor Whitmer has reorganized the way the State will regulate and license commercial marijuana business by creating the Marijuana Regulatory Agency. The Marijuana Regulatory Agency will replace the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation (which itself replaced the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation).

In addition, and perhaps most notably, Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order also abolished the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board. The Licensing Board created a bottleneck for applicants seeking to operate commercially licensed medical marijuana businesses. The Licensing Board was the subject of significant scrutiny and criticism for a variety of reasons, including the composition of its membership, its inconsistency in its decision-making, and the onerous and time-consuming application process.

Gov. Whitmer’s Executive Order should hopefully streamline the process for applicants seeking to pursue commercial marijuana business licenses and should also inject fairness into the process. Other stakeholders and I are anxious to see additional details as to the scope and breadth of the changes that will come about through this Executive Order.

Notably, the Executive Order will not take effect until April 30, 2019. Between now and then, the Michigan Legislature has the opportunity to review the Executive Order and, if both a majority of the Michigan House and Senate wishes, they could actually veto the Executive Order. However, a legislative veto appears quite unlikely as the State’s Senate Majority Leader, Mike Shirkey, has expressed support for the Executive Order.

We’re still awaiting additional details on how all of these changes will play out in the long run. If you are interested in pursuing a commercial marijuana business in Michigan, it is reassuring to see Michigan’s Governor and Attorney General are responsive to the industry and that they are interested in ensuring that the will of Michigan voters is carried forward by providing safe and responsible access to marijuana.

The landscape of Michigan marijuana law is constantly changing. It’s important to have trusted legal counsel that follows these issues closely to ensure that you’re always up to speed on the marijuana legal landscape. If you’re interested in starting a marijuana business, contact attorney John Fraser at Grewal Law PLLC for a free initial consultation.

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