The latest cannabis news out of Michigan shows that even government agencies need a rebrand sometimes.
Such is the case in Michigan, where the state’s governor Gretchen Whitmer announced last week that she has taken action “to consolidate the regulatory bodies within the State of Michigan that oversee cannabis and hemp processing, distribution, and sale to improve efficiency.”
As a result of the change, the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency will be called the Cannabis Regulatory Agency from now on.
The newly named agency will now regulate “the processing, distribution, and sale of both hemp and marijuana going forward,” according to a press release out of Whitmer’s office.
Prior to the changes, the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) regulated hemp, while the Marijuana Regulatory Agency––naturally––oversaw marijuana.
“Consolidating multiple government functions into the newly named Cannabis Regulatory Agency will help us continue growing our economy and creating jobs,” Whitmer, a first-term Democrat, said in a statement on Friday. “And to be blunt-safe, legal cannabis entrepreneurship, farming and consumption helps us put Michiganders first by directing the large windfall of tax revenue from this new industry to make bigger, bolder investments in local schools, roads, and first responders.”
The restructuring comes via executive order from Whitmer, and is scheduled to take effect in 60 days.
“Consolidating the regulation of the processing, distribution, and sale of marijuana and hemp into a single state agency will allow for more effective and efficient administration and enforcement of state laws relating to cannabis,” read the executive order. “The expertise of the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development necessitates their continued regulation of the cultivation of hemp. Changing the organization of the executive branch of state government is necessary in the interests of efficient administration and effectiveness of government.”
According to the Detroit News, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency was also established through executive order in 2019, after Michigan voters approved a ballot initiative that legalized recreational pot use for adults in the 2018 election. The agency was also charged with overseeing both recreational and medicinal cannabis in the state (the latter has been legal there since 2008).
That executive order “abolished the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, created in the wake of the legalization of recreational marijuana in November, and the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, created under a 2016 law approved by the GOP-led Legislature,” according to the Detroit News, and also “delegated responsibility related to the cultivation and sale of industrial hemp to the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development.”
Lawmakers in Michigan offered up a series of bills late last year that would have imposed stiffer restrictions on the amount of cannabis a caregiver can grow, lowering the number of allowed plants from 72 to 24.
One of the sponsors of the bills, Republican state House Representative Jim Lilly, said the proposals were designed to give structure to an unregulated industry.
“Two-thirds of the market right now of cannabis in Michigan is unregulated and so what that means is the majority of that product can be untested,” Lilly said, as quoted by local television station WOOD TV. “So, for cancer patients, those with immunocompromised situations, getting access to a safe product is really important. Some of this untested product has been found to contain mold, pesticides, E. coli, salmonella.”
“New York just went through some of this work and they’ve done about 12 plants for six patients, compared to what I’ve proposed at 24, but our current law allows for 72, which for anyone who does any growing or cultivating cannabis knows is far more than six patients can possibly consume,” he added.