More than 50 pounds of medical cannabis products have been recalled in Michigan this year, and state regulators reported that the majority of those batches were sourced from caregivers. The Detroit News first reported on this trend.
As the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) continues to issue licenses to medical marijuana businesses, the state is allowing licensed dispensaries to purchase products from caregivers. In the face of a medical marijuana product shortage in the marketplace, the mid-January resolution was seen as an attempt to get medication to patients in need.
According to the resolution, dispensaries may continue to purchase products from caregivers and sell them to patients through March 31. Caregiver-sourced products do not need to be tested by a licensed laboratory.
The move was met with both support and backlash across the Michigan industry.
The Michigan Coalition of Independent Testing Laboratories is circulating a petition to “impose reasonable, but mandatory testing on temporary operators, licensed Provisioning Centers, Growers and Processors, thus allowing patients access to safe, lab-tested medical cannabis.”
The mid-January resolution, according to the Coalition, “is a major setback to those who require access to safe medical cannabis. Under this new ruling, Michigan's most vulnerable patients are buying purported medical cannabis products that could legitimately harm them.”
The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, on the other hand, is supportive of what it sees as a short-term solution to market forces and patient needs. “The MCIA supports the state’s decision to temporarily allow provisioning centers to purchase products from caregivers, but it is just that—a temporary solution,” spokesman Josh Hovey said in a statement. “The long-term solution is to have a fully functioning market where all products are regulated and tested for purity. That’s why it’s critical for the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and the Licensing Board to quickly approve additional licenses so that we do not have another product shortage when the March 31 deadline hits.”
David Harns, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, told the Associated Press that, while caregiver-sourced cannabis does not need to be tested prior to hitting store shelves, patients may have the products tested at state-licensed facilities. For anyone who purchased recalled products from a Michigan dispensary, LARA advises those patients to return the product to the shop “for proper disposal.” (Patients must also sign a waiver when buying untested medical cannabis products at a dispensary.)
The state has registered more than 350,000 medical marijuana patients. Michigan voters approved a medical marijuana law in 2008, which allowed caregivers to provide home-grown cannabis to patients. Only beginning in 2015 has the state worked to implement a regulatory structure. For more than a year now, the Medical Marijuana Licensing Board has been working through a stack of business applications and extending deadlines to ensure that a safe market for patients—and an equitable, competitive market for businesses—is in place.
On Feb. 4, in an unrelated press release, LARA announced a series of changes to how medical marijuana testing will work in Michigan. The new rules include an opportunity for medical marijuana businesses to “remediate” products that fail pesticide and heavy metal testing. “The product will then need full compliance testing to prove contaminants have been removed,” according to an updated bulletin.
“Since the inception of our program, we have been listening to input from medical marijuana stakeholders and have been looking at best practices from other states,” said Bureau of Marijuana Regulation Director Andrew Brisbo in a public statement. “The changes announced today are a direct result of the input we have received from those in the industry. We are confident that these new standards will continue to keep medical marijuana products safe for Michigan’s patients while allowing businesses to run efficiently.