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Legal WeedLegal Weed Brings In $32M Through Feb.; Agency Seeks Input On Supply

The state sold $31.97 million worth of recreational marijuana in its first three months of operations, with the final week – February 24 through March 1 – being the largest yet, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency announced this week.

Along with sales figures, the agency also announced this week a policy change as it relates to caregiver product and a stakeholder workgroup it is compiling to discuss and provide suggestions on supply availability.

The workgroup will meet in Saginaw on March 26 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Those who are interested must send an email with “workgroup” in the subject line to MRA-Legal@michigan.gov with their name, mailing address, email address and phone number, occupation and employer, along with a brief explanation of why they want to be in the group. Those who are interested in participating must send in their requests by March 11 at 5 p.m.

The state’s total recreational marijuana sales have resulted in $3.2 million in excise tax revenue and $2.1 million in sales tax, MRA said. As of Monday, there are 111 licensed adult-use marijuana establishments in the state.

Those licensees include 61 retailers, two Class B growers, 24 Class C growers (made up of nine companies), 11 processors, six secure transporters, six marijuana event organizers and one marijuana safety compliance facility.

Additionally, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency will hold a public meeting on March 26 at the Hoyt Public Library in Saginaw to take complaints and receive views from the public on its administration of the recreational and medical marijuana laws.

Public comments may be made in person at the hearing, emailed or mailed to the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, Legal Section, P.O. Box 30205, Lansing, MI 48909.

Gongwer

Marijuana SalesAfter nine weeks of recreational marijuana sales, the state has brought in nearly $3 million in combined sales and excise tax revenue, numbers released Wednesday said.

In the first two months of sales in the market, which began on December 1, 2019, the state saw $17,699,952 in sales, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency said.

Those sales brought in $1,769,995 in excise taxes and $1,168,197 in sales tax. Combined, the two taxes brought in $2,938,192.

So far, the state has granted 76 recreational licenses: 43 for retailers; one for a Class B grower; 17 for Class C growers among nine companies; seven for processors; four for secure transporters; three for marijuana event organizers; and one for a marijuana safety compliance facility.

Photo by Add Weed on Unsplash

Several House Democrats were on the stump Tuesday for a recently introduced package of bills that could create new regulations to prevent lead exposure and programs to assist those who have been or could be exposed to lead through paint, soil, drinking water and what one representative called “adulterated cosmetics.”

That includes a proposed excise tax on architectural paint at 25 cents per gallon to be used to pay for lead abatement and reduction in residential dwellings.

Rep. Rachel Hood (D-Grand Rapids) and several of her colleagues in the House met with reporters on Tuesday to speak about the merits of the nine-bill package. Ms. Hood was joined by bill sponsors Rep. John Cherry (D-Flint), Rep. Sara Anthony (D-Lansing), Rep. Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit) and Rep. Lesley Love (D-Detroit).

Rep. Alex Garza (D-Taylor) and Rep. Laurie Pohutsky (D-Livonia), both of whom who sponsored bills in the package, did not attend the press event.

The bills were partly inspired by the Flint water crisis, as well as serious lead exposure concerns in Detroit and Grand Rapids and other major Michigan cities.

While that state has taken measures to protect drinking water from lead and chemicals like PFAS, Ms. Hood said that “until now, we’ve failed to have a broader conversation about the dangers posed by lead that still persist in other areas of our lives.”

“The paint in our homes, the soil in our neighborhoods and sometimes residues left in our cosmetics still pose a threat to our communities, our children, our older vulnerable populations and more,” Ms. Hood said.

The bills would lower the threshold for lead action levels from 10 micrograms per deciliter to 5 micrograms per deciliter (HB 5359 and HB 5360), require lead poisoning screenings for minors and would place screening results in a minor’s immunization record (HB 5363 and HB 5365).

On HB 5363, Mr. Cherry said mandatory lead screenings would help infants and children who may be exposed sooner than later and can receive care throughout their lifetimes.

Other bills in the package focus on lead hazards in homes. One would require a lead-based paint inspection and abatement for rental units when complaints are received (HB 5362) and would require lead-based paint inspections before the sale or transfer of property intended for occupancy if it was built before 1978 (HB 5361).

Ms. Gay-Dagnogo said the portion of the package regarding inspections would do a great deal of good for residents living in areas with a glut of older housing with possible lead-based paint, including her home city of Detroit, Grand Rapids and Muskegon, to name a few.

“As many as 100,000 housing units in Michigan have been estimated to be a high risk of lead hazards, many of which house occupants living below the poverty line,” Ms. Gay-Dagnogo said. “In fact, a child from a low-income household is four-times more likely to be exposed to lead than the average rate of children living in older homes, meaning our most vulnerable neighbors are the ones left to suffer the most.”

Additionally, HB 5364 would shift the burden of proof of a hazard complaint in rentals from tenants to landlords.

Regarding industry and consumer protection, two bills in the package would provide abatement tax credits to qualified lead professionals (HB 5367) and would levy an excise tax on architectural paint (HB 5367).

Another dubbed the Safe Cosmetics Act (HB 5406) would prohibit the manufacture, sale, distribution and warehousing of “adulterated cosmetics,” or those with unsafe ingredients and additives which may also contain lead.

Manufacturers found in violation of this act would be penalized with a recurring fine of up to $1,000 for manufacturers, Ms. Pohutsky told Gongwer News Service following the media event. The penalty could be prosecuted by local county prosecutors or the Department of Attorney General.

Ms. Pohutsky said she is unaware if the state currently regulates such ingredients in knock-off cosmetics, which may be imported to the U.S. from oversees, but her bill would work to close any loopholes in those regulations at the state level.

“There are a lot of discount websites and apps … where you can get what looks to be brand name or high-end makeup for cheap and the reason it’s cheap is because it contains some contaminants (that) you should not be applying to your body,” she said. “We want to look at issues of lead paint in homes and water, but the cosmetic issue is something we also can correct with this package and I think it’s on us to do that.”

Committee Changes In House With Neeley Gone; Freeing Up Wentworth

House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) announced Thursday changes to several committees to free up Rep. Jason Wentworth (R-Clare) and replace former Rep. Sheldon Neeley (D-Flint), as he resigned last year after being elected Flint mayor.

On the House Ways and Means Committee, Rep. Kyra Bolden (D-Southfield) will replace Mr. Neeley. Rep. Luke Meerman (R-Coopersville) will replace Mr. Wentworth. Ms. Bolden and Mr. Meerman will be the only first term lawmakers on the panel that takes a second look at almost all bills going to the House floor.

As speaker pro tempore and member of the leadership team, Mr. Wentworth is plugged into many issues and had too much going on, Gideon D’Assandro, spokesperson for House Republicans, said. Ways and Means meets multiple times per week.

To facilitate the Ways and Means changes, Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) will replace Ms. Bolden on the Insurance Committee. She will remain on the Judiciary Committee, another key panel that can send bills directly to the House floor under its current committee structure.

Rep. Doug Wozniak (R-Shelby Township) will replace Mr. Meerman on the Commerce and Tourism Committee, Rep. Diana Farrington (R-Utica) will replace Mr. Meerman on the Families, Children and Seniors Committee and Rep. Greg Markkanen (R-Hancock) will replace him on the Local Government and Municipal Finance Committee.

On the Agriculture Committee, Rep. Mike Mueller (R-Linden) will become vice chair and Rep. Michele Hoitenga (R-Manton) will replace Mr. Meerman

Marijuana Industry Advocate Unimpressed With Recreational Rollout

Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider
Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider

The state’s launch of its adult-use marijuana program was “not rational,” “rushed” and “not well thought out,” Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider said last week as she predicted marijuana flower could run out soon.

“From a national drug policy perspective, this is not what a rollout of a responsible adult-use program looks like,” Ms. Schneider, who helped legalize recreational marijuana in the state, said on Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record” on Friday. “Unfortunately, I think Michigan is going to become a national model of how not to rollout an adult-use program.”

Ms. Schneider and her group have criticized the state’s move allowing for the transfer of some product from the medical to the recreational side under certain conditions. She said the group has a data scientist that has showed the marijuana flower, a popular product for purchase, could run out in two months.

“I think they need to run that faucet down to a trickle and reassess where our inventory is at and maybe scale that back a little bit to make sure we don’t run out of medicine for medical patients,” Ms. Schneider said.

David Harns, spokesperson for the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, said the agency is monitoring its data to determine impacts of the transfers and the best path forward. He said the agency has not seen data from Ms. Schneider’s group.

Ms. Schneider is also advocating for testing changes, as she said currently there is perfectly good medicine being destroyed because of an agency rules that could be changed.

“At this point we need to get as many plants in the ground as quickly as possible,” she said. “I would say we are least 10-times behind where we need to be in production.”

Ms. Schneider added that she was not impressed with the roughly $1.6 million made in sales in the first week of recreational marijuana.

“When you look at that from a national perspective, that is what Colorado did in its first day,” she said. “We should have done much better than that. And had the state stuck to its original plan, and begun sales in spring of 2020, we would have had time to build the infrastructure and create the supply needed to launch recreational sales. That is not anything to give us bragging rights.”

Proposed Labor Rule For Marijuana Shops Sees Some Backlash

A potential rule requiring marijuana shops, in order to get a license, to enter into labor peace agreements in an effort to prevent any work stoppages had one senator this week comparing the scheme to organized crime.

Under draft rules for marijuana facility licensing, which have not taken effect, a labor peace agreement would be required for those seeking licensure. It does not require workers in marijuana shops to unionize.

Proposed Labor Rule For Marijuana ShopsA labor peace agreement “means an agreement between a licensee and any bona fide labor organization that, at a minimum, protects the state’s interests by prohibiting labor organizations and members from engaging in picketing, work stoppages, boycotts, and any other economic interference with the applicant’s business.”

Marijuana Regulatory Agency Executive Director was grilled on the potential rule during a Senate Appropriations Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Subcommittee meeting this week.

Sen. Aric Nesbitt (R-Lawton), chair of the subcommittee, said the rule gives third-party organizations too much power.

“You are giving an outside private entity, the union, the ability, if they don’t sign off on the application, to block every one of these applications,” Mr. Nesbitt said.

Mr. Brisbo defended the rule as a way to help ensure there is no gap in product as the agency is trying to bring consumers to a regulated market and away from a 90-year-old black market.

“We felt it was appropriate to have this condition because of the status of the market,” he said. “Because of the potential risks for disruptions to the success of the market, and the economic impact on operators and the potential impact to public health, safety and welfare.”

The rule, which is not part of the current emergency rules the adult-use system is operating under, is subject a public hearing that will happen sometime early next year.

Mr. Nesbitt compared the rule to a “protection racket,” paid to organized crime to keep businesses or other groups safe.

“As I see it under one scenario you are forced to protect yourself from the threats of organized crime,” he said. “In the scenario your agency has set up under its rules you are forced to protect yourself from the threats of organized labor. It’s very heavy-handed government.”

Mr. Brisbo disagreed with the analogy.

“To take that leap sir, with all due respect, one could make the argument that government in and of itself is organized crime,” he said.

Mr. Nesbitt said he would like to see a withdrawal of the rule, though Mr. Brisbo said he wouldn’t make a commitment either way. Mr. Brisbo did say Governor Gretchen Whitmer‘s administration and labor support the approach, though the rule wasn’t demanded nor was it requested by a particular party.

Cannabis business groups are also expressing some opposition to the potential rule. Michigan Cannabis Industry Association Executive Director Robin Schneider said on Michigan Public Television’s “Off the Record” that her members are split in support and opposition.

“We think it should be optional,” she said.

Ms. Schneider said if the agency provided an incentive, like lower fees, it would encourage those agreements.

“If the state really wants it that bad, I guess maybe find an incentive for it rather than making it a requirement for licensure,” she said.

The Great Lakes Cannabis Chamber of Commerce also opposed the potential rule in a statement, along with other potential changes on testing requirements and home delivery.

“The industry is facing major challenges with obtaining reliable, tested product,” said Sandra McCormick, membership and communications director for the group. “Adding burdens such as forced unionization while removing certain public health and safety standards means longer wait times and bad product making it to market.”

Industry Fears Medical Pot May Run Out In 2 Months

marijuana dispensary

With the Gov. Gretchen Whitmer administration allowing 50% of the medical marijuana product to be used to feed the high demand for adult pot users, an industry group claims to have data suggesting that within two months the medical marijuana product could “run out.”

That assessment is from Robin Schneider from the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association (MICIA), the pot industry association that fears the state’s decision to accelerate the start date for adult pot use by half a year will have consequences for patients.

The state has 145 licenses approved to grow marijuana on the medical side and 10 approved to grow on the recreational side. More license growers keep rolling in for both medical and adult use every week, according to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

Marijuana businesses are not required to move medical products over to adult use. It’s an optional solution for retailers who have products on their shelves that aren’t selling and choose to move it over to the adult use side.

Schneider said on Off The Record that the original rollout date for the adult market was “spring of 2020,” but out of nowhere the MICIA got word from inside the Governor’s administration that Dec. 1 was the new date.

“We were unanimously opposed and we tried to stop it,” she reported.

She used her contacts in the Marijuana Regulatory Agency and the governor’s office to slap a hold on the decision, but when she contacted one of the governor’s staffers she was told the request could not be forwarded to the Governor because she was en route to Israel.

Schneider told reporters that she at a loss to explain why this new hurry-up date was implemented and who was pushing for it.

In the wake of that, the cost of pot has skyrocketed due to the high demand with low product availability, she reported. The group hired a data scientist research firm to crunch the numbers on what might happen if the administration continues to redirect medical pot into the adult market.

The analytics indicated “depending on how many transfers happen over time to the rec. (recreational pot) it could be sooner than two months.”

The MICIA would like to see the state readjust that 50% figure as it still tries to figure out why that number was chosen in the first place.

“They turned on the faucet but it should be turned down to a trickle . . . what about the patients? We could be sending them back to the black market,” she said.

The state’s marijuana regulators contend they had to strike a balance in making sure patients had access to medicine while still implementing the ballot proposal that the voters passed last fall.

The initial rollout of recreational marijuana was described as a “small, measured soft opening” with 11 of the 175 state-licensed provisioning centers permitted to sell on the adult-use side.

“This approach lets businesses maintain their inventory for patients while allowing marijuana consumers to leave the illicit market and purchase products that have passed tests at state-licensed facilities,” said LARA spokesperson David HARNS.

Battle Creek Retailer Brings Recreational Weed Licenses To 29

Recreational Weed LicenseThe Marijuana Regulatory Agency has granted 29 adult-use marijuana licenses to various businesses, including 12 retailers, it said on Monday.

A retailer in Battle Creek received its license on Monday, said David Harns, spokesperson for MRA.

Outside of the 12 license retailers, the state has issued 10 Class C grower licenses to three applicants, an event organizer license, three processor licenses, a safety compliance facility license and two secure transporter licenses.

Five of the 12 retailers are located in Ann Arbor, two are in Burton, and one each in Mount Morris, White Cloud, Morenci, Battle Creek and Evart.

By Brooke Hebb, DCD Political Consultant Intern

Representative Elissa Slotkin (D-8), who serves Michigan’s Congressional District 8, hosted a Community Conversation at Oakland University on Monday, November 16 to discuss pressing topics as she finishes up her first year in Congress. The event was hosted by Oakland University’s Center for Civic Engagement, in a large auditorium in the new addition to the university’s Oakland Center. Over four hundred residents of the eighth district attended, and were met with various anti-impeachment and Trump 2020 protests. This event took place just after Slotkin released an op-ed column announcing her support for impeachment in the Detroit Free Press. Read the article here.

elissa slotkin
Representative Elissa Slotkin

The conversation started with a warm welcome from Dr. Dave Dulio, an Oakland University professor and director of the Center for Civic Engagement. Dulio explained the Center’s main tenants, which include acting as a neutral “convener of conversations” on a variety of political issues and topics.

The room was then filled with boos and cheers as the congresswoman’s deputy chief of staff introduced her to the stage. After the crowd quieted, Slotkin reassured the audience that although impeachment is the main topic of conversation, she wanted to touch on other important issues confronting Congress. She began by discussing prescription drug costs, and the bipartisan action she has been a part of to address this issue faced by many Americans. House Resolution 3 (H.R.3), which she was a major player in, addresses the increasing costs of drugs, Medicare coverage for regular dental, vision, and hearing check-ups, and federal investments in the National Institute of Health.

In addition to her work on drug prices, Representative Slotkin also touched on the United States, Mexico, Canada Agreement (USMCA), also known as NAFTA 2.0, and the benefits the agreement could have on Michigan farmers and auto parts suppliers. The Congresswoman also described her role in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), and how she was able to help Gold Star Families obtain nearly $12,000 more per year by repealing the infamous Widow’s Tax, in addition to limitations on PFAS chemicals in military training exercises.

As for the hot topic of conversation — impeachment — protests erupted as Slotkin addressed her position on supporting the impeachment of President Donald J. Trump. The Congresswoman explained that she had originally preferred to rely on the upcoming 2020 election to let the American people decide on President Trump’s fate; however, after the President’s conversation with a foreign power regarding political opponent Joe Biden, Slotkin supported an inquiry into the President’s supposed wrongdoings.

Representative Slotkin explained that she came to her decision to support impeachment after a diligent process of reading and reviewing transcripts, testimonies, and even referring back to the articles of impeachment for President’s Nixon and Clinton, United States Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. Slotkin claims that her decision was made out of principle: the President’s behaviors in consulting with a foreign entity for personal political gain should not become a norm, and that “this is bigger than politics.” Her decision is monumental, as it may determine the fate of her political career in the 2020 election in which she is running for re-election.

Congresswoman Slotkin is set to vote “yes” on both articles of impeachment this week. The first,
Obstruction of Congress, which accuses the President of defying the impeachment inquiry; and the
second, Abuse of Power, which accuses the President of soliciting the interference of a foreign
government in the 2020 election for personal political gain. Her decision was met with a mixture of backlash and support.

I was proud to represent the firm at Representative Slotkin’s Community Conversation. As always, do not hesitate to reach out with any questions or concerns you may have.

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of Easterseals and our event will focus on celebrating 100 years of service to the community!

The evening will feature strolling food truck cuisine, beer and wine, a silent auction, raffles and live entertainment.

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Easterseals Michigan has many programs and services. Easterseals Michigan serves over 12,000 people each year at 11 locations throughout the region. The services provided include, but aren’t limited to:

Your support is so important because each year, Easterseals Michigan sees an increase in the people we serve. Mental illness is on the rise in the United States due to the lack of preventative and effective treatment options. There’s a current opioid epidemic plaguing our residents and Easterseals is working hard to be there for those that need and want help. Also, 1 in 59 children are currently on the autism spectrum and want to learn life skills to make their days even more enjoyable. Here at Easterseals, we address these issues by providing crucial services to those with mental, behavioral, and physical health needs, despite their socioeconomic status. Together, we can help people live the lives they deserve.

For more information, visit EastersealsMichigan.com