Michigan cannabis regulator quizzed on caregiver laws during state Senate testimony

Michigan Senate TV

MRA Executive Director Andrew Brisbo testifying before a Michigan Senate committee Tuesday.

Michigan’s chief cannabis regulator, Andrew Brisbo, argued before a state legislative committee Tuesday that when municipalities don’t legalize cannabis sales, they should expect an illegal solution to crop up.

“There is a strong nexus between communities not allowing for commercial access and caregiver activity. The demand for product is there, if there is no regulated commercial access, there is someone there who will fulfill that need,” Brisbo told the Michigan State Senate Committee on Regulatory Reform. Brisbo is the executive director of the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA).

“The will of communities to prohibit regulated operation is not necessarily without consequence, and does not necessarily keep marijuana out of their communities. It just prevents regulated taxed, government regulator product from being available in their communities,” said Brisbo.

[Watch Brisbo’s testimony]

Brisbo answered a series of questions from both Democrats and Republicans on whether or not caregiver production can be regulated in Michigan. According to Michigan law, caregivers can grow up to twelve plants per registered patient, and a caregiver can grow for up to five patients, as well as themselves, totally 72 plants at any one time. Caregiver plants are not tracked by the state’s seed to sale tracking system. 

There were bi-partisan frustrations exhibited on the committee that caregivers are not regulated, nor is caregiver status allowed to be made public or revealed to law enforcement.

“The information is very specifically confidential,” Brisbo told the committee “My staff are subject to criminal prosecution for releasing information.”

Because the caregiver provision was enacted as part of a statewide referendum, any modification of that law would require a three-quarters majority vote in both chambers to pass.

Other interesting points from Brisbo’s testimony:

  • MRA projects Michigan will have $1.4 billion in retail cannabis sales in 2021.
  • MRA is investigating creating a new license type, “for those not interested in cultivating the plants, to the point of harvesting them. Creating a kind of nursery option,” said Brisbo.
  • Michigan has 755 distinct cannabis license locations and MRA expects about 100 more in 2021.
  • As of 2021, 927 medical cannabis licenses had been issued, but only 811 are active. For adult-use, 545 were issued, but only 531 are active.
  • In 2020, MRA issued 27 “orders” or penalties to medical license holders and 3 orders to recreational license holders.
  • This year, MRA’s legislative priorities are Tribal commercial operations, marijuana and hemp intersections, the equity recommendations made earlier this year, and lifting laws allowing telemedicine for patient certifications (which were lifted during the pandemic).