Michigan’s Top Cannabis Regulator Stepping Down

Andrew Brisbo has headed Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency since 2019.

The official overseeing Michigan’s cannabis regulatory arm who has helped shape the state’s nascent recreational pot market is leaving his post.

Andrew Brisbo, who has served as executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency since 2019, will be leaving the role to take a new position at the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, the Detroit Free Press reported on Tuesday.

A spokesperson for Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed the moves to the Free Press.

“We are proud of the incredible team at the Cannabis Regulatory Agency for establishing Michigan as one of the top cannabis markets in the country,” Bobby Leddy, a spokesperson for the governor, told the newspaper in a statement.

Brisbo has led the agency since its inception. In 2019, as the state prepared for the launch of the recreational pot market, Whitmer consolidated the state’s regulation of cannabis under one singular entity: the Cannabis Regulatory Agency.

Brisbo was appointed to head the new agency after previously serving as director of the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, which the CRA replaced.

“Andrew will be critical in determining and achieving solutions as we develop new marijuana regulations in Michigan,” Whitmer said in a statement at the time, as quoted by the Detroit Free Press. “He brings a wealth of expert knowledge on this subject, which will be essential through this implementation process while protecting Michigan residents.”  

Michigan voters legalized medical cannabis in 2008; ten years later, they did the same for recreational pot use.

As the Free Press reported in 2019, Whitmer created the singular regulatory agency “to better coordinate the medical marijuana market…with the adult-use recreational,” which launched in early 2020.

The agency was renamed from the Marijuana Regulatory Agency to the Cannabis Regulatory Agency in February and was charged with the task of regulating “the processing, distribution, and sale of both hemp and marijuana going forward.”

“Consolidating multiple government functions into the newly named Cannabis Regulatory Agency will help us continue growing our economy and creating jobs,” Whitmer, a Democrat, said in a statement at the time. “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.”

Whitmer’s office said the restructuring, which came via the governor’s executive order, would “allow for a more effective, efficient administration and enforcement of Michigan laws regulating cannabis in all its forms.”

Whatever the agency’s been called, it’s been Brisbo in charge, and Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry has been a roaring success.

“Under Brisbo’s leadership, Michigan’s recreational cannabis industry rapidly expanded,” the Free Press reported on Tuesday.

A report last year found that Michigan had seen more jobs added to its cannabis industry than any other state that has legalized pot. The report from Leafly found that the state’s regulated weed market had 18,000 jobs at the time.

The Free Press reported this week that Leddy, Whitmer’s spokesperson, said that Michigan’s adult-use cannabis industry has led to the “creation of more than 20,000 jobs in the cannabis industry and the generation of $500 million in tax revenue.”

“There are now more cannabis workers than cops in Michigan,” Leafly said in its report last year. “In a state known for its auto industry, the number of cannabis workers is now roughly equal to the number of auto repair mechanics.”

But the Free Press noted that the still-young industry has experienced “growing pains” in recent months. Although “sales and cannabis businesses in the state have continued to increase,” the Free Press reported, “the price of marijuana flower has dropped, pinching profits for many companies, with some laying off staff or closing their operations entirely.”

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