A monthly roundup of marijuana news and notes.
Three months ago, Revue highlighted lingering problems at the state Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, including slow and inefficient permitting and seemingly arbitrary denials. In mid-February, Bridge Magazine profiled the “moralist obstructionist” at the heart of the issue: board member and retired Michigan State Police Sergeant Donald Bailey.
Activists have been pissed off at Bailey since the board first started meeting in 2017. He’s made repeated attempts to shut down the industry while regulations are drafted, and has backed high thresholds for market entry, shutting out small businesses. He also sounds like a hardcore gateway-drug believer.
“I’ve never met a crackhead who didn’t start with marijuana. Zero. Every single one of them did,” he told Bridge.
Bailey says activists’ characterization of him is unfair and has even received death threats from drug dealers.
Meanwhile, more than 1,500 people have signed a petition calling on Attorney General Dana Nessel to remove him from the board, Bridge reports. However, the removal is unlikely since Bailey’s term runs through 2020 — a date that can’t come soon enough.
Despite the board issues, the medical marijuana market is off and running. State regulators expect $18.2 million in new sales tax revenue off of 7,000 pounds of medical marijuana since the state started tracking sales in October. Lansing-area Green Peek Innovations harvested its first crop in mid-February, according to FOX-47, and employs about 80 people. The company plans to harvest nearly 30,000 pounds a year. Discreet, armored cars are transporting product across the state. Meanwhile, regulators want to make it easier for residents to apply for medical marijuana cards by reducing fees on patients and caregivers and increasing the card renewal period.
The marijuana-gifting market may be making its way to the “dry” southwest corner of the state, the South Bend Tribune reports. The owner of Ypsilanti-based Blaze Michigan — which “gifts” marijuana to customers who pay, say, $80 for a few used books as cover under the state’s recreational pot law (no stores will be online until later this year at the earliest) — says she’s exploring expanding into West Michigan. The business has reportedly made deliveries in Grand Rapids, Muskegon and Kalamazoo.
But the gifting issue may be ripe for a lawsuit: Attorneys disagree about whether it qualifies as a person-to-person transfer for “remuneration,” which is expressly prohibited in the law. Some say it’s a gray area. Berrien County Prosecutor Michael Sepic didn’t mince words: “That’s just a subterfuge for selling marijuana. I’m certainly willing to take that kind of a case to court and let a judge decide,” he told the Tribune.
An ongoing case involving medical marijuana growers and municipalities that will be closely watched by advocates has made its way to the Michigan Supreme Court, MLive reports. Justices will decide whether cities and townships can restrict growing by medical marijuana caregivers. Byron Township in Kent County restricts caregiver growing through zoning regulations, but courts so far have sided with a medical marijuana patient and caregiver. The city is joined by the Michigan Townships Association and the Michigan Municipal League in appealing to the Supreme Court.
While more than 250 local governments have opted out of recreational pot licensing, communities like South Haven are taking a more deliberate approach to consider the issue. But that’s not enough for a newly formed community group there, which appears to be the first in Southwest Michigan to push for a voter-initiated ordinance to ban the businesses, according to the Herald-Palladium in St. Joseph. The group apparently wants to pre-empt the City Council and put the question to voters. For what it’s worth, 52 percent of South Haven voters approved legalization in November.
— Compiled by Andy Balaskovitz