Andrew Brisbo (seating on left, facing camera), executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency, listens to testimony at a June 16, 2022 public hearing on proposed rules.

Thursday, Michigan residents and cannabis operators got a chance to chime in with the Cannabis Regulatory Agency on the concept of banning “deli style” flower sales and replacing them with sealed packaging. While the agency has not yet made a formal proposal to ban deli style, over a dozen speakers strongly called to keep the current system in place.

“Deli style” display and sales puts flower in glass containers, allowing consumers to examine its condition before making a purchase, similar to how meat and produce is bought at a grocery store. Independent dispensary operators believe that eliminating deli style and requiring sealed packaging would place a new financial burden on growers and dispensary owners. 

Joe and Jackie Lucas of Michiganja in White Cloud, Mich. both spoke, claiming that the proposal to require sealed packaging would place a significant financial burden on their family’s dispensary.

“By requiring pre-packaging, it would kill our sales and our company,” Jackie said. “By getting rid of deli style, it would put a lot of Michigan businesses under.” 

Joe followed up to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

Several participants believe that pre-packaged flower cheapens the product by allowing poor turnover, making product at the bottom of a jar, or leading to irregularly sold product becoming stale, poorly maintained, and harder to detect defects and contaminants, such as mold, pesticides, and seeds from other plants.

Michigan is an exception to most adult use legal states, since most require all cannabis to be sold in sealed, pre-packaged containers.

Monica Henderson, director of compliance at Curaleaf, spoke in support of the deli style ban, claiming that pre-packaging ensures product consistency and hygiene, as she alluded to numerous recalls the state has wrestled with over the past year.

As a result of those past Michigan recalls, numerous cannabis operators have called on the CRA to improve its enforcement of regulations to prevent recalls in the first place.

Jeff Parker, an attorney who spoke Thursday, testified that his clients, mostly of smaller growers, would be negatively impacted, since they have built their business models around supplying dispensaries with deli style sales.

“They don’t have the desire or ability to set up an entirely new processing and packaging center that’s already been maximized for the regulations we’ve had for the last four years,” Parker said. “I think this change would be harmful to many small growers and many small retailers and consumers.

Andrea Alcantara, a worker at a craft grow facility in southern Michigan, said a rule change would place further burden on growers as the prices of cannabis in Michigan continues to plummet from license saturation and increasing energy costs.

“Adding another cost to growers will push the small Michigan-based growers further out of the market,” Alcantara said.

Alcantara suggested that Michigan look into lowering licensing fees and renewal fees first, a move other states like California, has taken to encourage cannabis industry growth.

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Trey Arline is Grown In’s Midwest Reporter. He was most recently with the Daily Herald, but has also reported for Vegas PBS, The Nevada Independent, and the Associated Press.