Marijuana Organization Pushes For More Safety Enforcement To Stop Illicit Weed From Michigan Market
A marijuana lobby organization is targeting the enforcement capabilities of Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency in a bid to push through a set of laws it helped draft last summer.
These laws, dubbed the Michigan Cannabis Safety Act, are promoted by the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA), made up of some of the largest marijuana companies in the state. The bills have stalled in the House Regulatory Reform Committee since October.
The MCMA, in a press release and letter to lawmakers, highlighted recent statements that emerged from depositions taken in two complaints filed by Viridis Laboratories against the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) in response. to a massive 64,000 pound marijuana recall that Viridis is at the center of. The MRA accused Viridis of inaccurate marijuana safety testing, although a Claims Court judge found part of the MRA’s recall to be unwarranted and overturned it.
“In a letter to state legislators, the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association today (February 23) called for greater enforcement of cannabis safety following media reports of Michigan Marijuana officers Regulatory Agency testifying under oath that they were instructed by the agency to leave behind untested, illicit cannabis discovered in MRA-licensed facilities,” the MCMA said in a statement released by its public relations firm, Lansing-based Byrum and Fisk.” The MRA officers’ depositions also underscore the urgent need to pass Michigan’s bipartisan Cannabis Safety Act, which helps ensure that all cannabis in Michigan is tested, tracked, labelled, authorized and taxed.”
The MRA enforcement officers referred to by the MCMA said during Viridis’ depositions that they had no authority to take immediate action when they encountered suspected illegal marijuana on-site during inspections.
The MRA has the ability to suspend marijuana products registered in the statewide Marijuana Enforcement Tracking Reports (METRC) Compliance Monitoring System, which prevents them from being sold or transferred, but this does not apply to the black market.
“So if one of your officers walks in and finds what they think is illicit product, is that product seized?” Viridis attorney David R. Russell asked MRA enforcement supervisor Brian J. Hanna during a Feb. 3 deposition taken over Zoom.
“No, we don’t have the authority to touch or grab the marijuana product,” Hanna said. “We don’t. The only authority that can do this is law enforcement.
Hanna said “street weed” that ends up in licensed facilities could be spotted in “packaging you don’t normally see in marijuana businesses,” like garbage bags or backpacks.
MRA investigators often contact the State Police Marijuana and Tobacco Investigations Section to investigate if they suspect a licensed marijuana business is in possession of illegal marijuana, according to Hanna.
“But their response time can vary,” another MRA investigator, Steven D. Rau, said during his February 8 deposition. “I mean, it could be, you know, eight o’clock, it could be the next day. I’m not going to stay here for eight hours keeping this bag.
Russell of Lansing-based law firm Foster, Swift, Collins and Smith asked Hanna: “What is the prevalence of illicit products…in licensed facilities?”
“I don’t know the actual numbers,” said Hanna, a former state police criminal intelligence official. “It really depends on how often we can catch people doing it. And every now and then we catch companies doing it.
Hanna said it can be difficult to catch corrupt businesses in possession of illicit marijuana, especially when “you have a state-sealed car and people see you coming.”
He said black market marijuana is usually brought to the licensed market through a process called “reversal.”
For example, outdoor marijuana could be mixed with a legitimate crop, since the MRA system initially only tracks plants and the harvested flower is self-registered and entered by the grower. In this scenario, illicit marijuana would be subject to safety testing.
But there are also ways around it, Hanna said.
“If you’re in a retail market…and the tested marijuana is put in a jar, and it has a METRC label on the front, and someone takes the jar and puts it in the back room and sneak in another marijuana, of course that’s also possible,” he said.
During her deposition, Hanna was unable to provide information on how many times businesses have been arrested with illicit marijuana or investigated by state police.
When asked if he thought there was a better way to handle these situations, Hanna replied, “I think there is always room for improvement, but we do our best with the tools we have at the time.”
At MRA meetings, it’s a “recurring piece of conversation, that there are prosecution challenges to deal with the illicit market, even in scenarios where we can find them,” Hanna testified during of his testimony. “State police are struggling to find prosecutors who actually want to take on cases, leading to enforcement issues.”
Marijuana Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo declined to respond directly to the MCMA’s statement or letter to the Legislative Assembly.
“We understand that there are many competing interests in the marijuana industry, but the MRA refuses to be drawn into public relations campaigns that pit stakeholders against each other,” Brisbo said. “We will continue to do what we have always done by providing exceptional customer service to our licensees while protecting the health, safety and well-being of cannabis consumers in Michigan; this includes working with law enforcement when necessary and holding our licensees accountable when they break the law or fail to follow the rules.
Rick Thompson, a legalization pioneer and president of the state chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is a critic of the MCMA’s lobbying efforts and has called its use of depositions a the MRA to advance its legislative agenda with an “act”. of despair. »
“The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association spent a lot of money lobbying the legislature for this cannabis safety law,” he said. “They failed last year and as we head into an election season this is their last take on this brass ring, the last chance for them to push this legislation through before it all gets very muddy in Lansing .
“There is no call within the marijuana industry for the MRA to have greater enforcement powers, so this is a unique request.”
The MCMA is led by board chair Shelly Edgerton, the former executive director of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which oversees the ARM, and has successfully lobbied for other licensing-related legislation. marijuana.
Edgerton said the comments made in the MRA depositions highlight the MCMA’s “long-standing concerns about the proliferation of illicit cannabis in Michigan’s cannabis market.”
“These recent reports further demonstrate a clear threat to consumer safety and the immediate need to increase resource allocation for additional enforcement to combat Michigan’s illicit cannabis market,” she said. . “We also renew our call to pass Michigan’s Cannabis Safety Act without delay to help ensure that all cannabis in Michigan is tested, tracked, labelled, licensed and taxed.”
Learn more about MLive:
Cancellation of Michigan marijuana recall allows companies to sell tainted cannabis
Cannabis snacks available in Whitemore Lake
Growing pains in Michigan’s marijuana industry
How Michigan Marijuana Became a $2 Billion Industry
Marijuana recall blamed for 18 health issues
Viridis hits back in court
Viridis denounces “bureaucratic” abuses
Michigan issues $200 million marijuana recall
Pinconning Paralyzer Podcast
Pregnancy tests, VR glasses among marijuana research purchases
Research grants will be announced in August
Caregivers at odds with corporate cannabis