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Whitmer administration changing tone around Michigan marijuana regulation

Posted on January 23, 2019 at 7:40 AM

  As Michigan moves toward legal sale of recreational marijuana in 2020, new developments in pot regulation only reinforce expectation the industry will find a more sympathetic ear in Democratic Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.The most obvious evidence is her backing of Proposal 1, which state voters approved in November to legalize recreational weed.But Whitmer has now weighed in on the regulatory mess surrounding medical marijuana, successfully pushing last week to reopen 70 shuttered dispensaries through the end of March while they seek state licenses.After prodding from Whitmer and the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), the state’s medical marijuana licensing board voted to allow dozens of the medical dispensaries to reopen. That brings the number of these storefront retail outlets to 104 ‒ where there once had been 300.“This is certainly a step in the right direction,” Matthew Abel, executive director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), told Bridge Magazine.Abel regards the board’s decision as a sea change from oversight practice under the administration of GOP Gov. Rick Snyder, which saw the board move to close nearly a hundred unlicensed dispensaries at the end of 2018.Marijuana advocate Matthew Abel credits Gretchen Whitmer with a more progressive stance toward marijuana.Advocates for Michigan’s 300,000 medical marijuana cardholders decried that ruling, warning that it would choke off supply for thousands of patients who use physician-approved marijuana for everything from skin rashes to chronic pain to cancer.Abel credited Whitmer – and newly appointed LARA director Orlene Hawks – for advocating a second look at policies by the Snyder-appointed board which he views as needlessly restrictive.“It’s pretty clear that Snyder was slow-pedaling this,” Abel said. “We replaced the governor and Gretchen Whitmer replaced the director of LARA and even in this first month they already have taken action to benefit patients.”State regulatory officials have said they were just enforcing guidelines approved in 2016 that as implemented required unlicensed medical marijuana outlets to apply for a license by Feb. 15 of last year or be shut down.Last March, LARA closed 40 such outlets, issuing letters that said in part: “A person that does not comply with this rule shall...........

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