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Changes to Michigan's marijuana caregiver system proposed in Lansing

Posted at 11:17 PM, Oct 13, 2021
and last updated 2021-10-13 23:17:31-04

WALLED LAKE, Mich. (WXYZ) — It’s a Wednesday afternoon at Greenhouse of Walled Lake and business is booming.

The store is Oakland County's first-ever licensed medical and recreational marijuana location. The dozens of products on the shelves are all regulated by state law.

“All these products are tested, they’re cleaned, they’re made in state-licensed facilities, they’re grown in state-licensed facilities,” said Partner Frank Marra.

Another group called caregivers also provides medical cannabis products. These growers are currently allowed up to 60 plants and 5 patients. However, a new bill in Lansing would limit the number of patients per caregiver to one.

Rick Thompson is a former caregiver and Executive Director of NORML Michigan, an organization fighting this bill. He says limiting caregivers would have many negative impacts on medical patients.

“It would be much more difficult for patients to find the medicines they need and it would be much more expensive," Thompson said. "That’s not a hypothetical, that’s a reality.”

Thompson appeared at a state committee hearing last week, where proponents of the bill also argued their case.

“The persistence of unlicensed and untested cannabis from caregivers in the totally illegal market has swamped the regulated system,” said Stephen Linder, Director of Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association.

Linder says the package of bills, known as the Michigan Cannabis Safety Act, would make the market safer by limiting these smaller unlicensed growers.

“What these bills do is create a system where all cannabis sold is tested to be safe for consumption by those who are sick,” Linder said during the testimony.

But Thompson argues caregivers have been around since 2008 and are not the source of the problem, saying that limiting their operation does the opposite of making Michigan safer.

“Over the 12-year history of caregivers in Michigan, there’s no record of poor behavior of caregivers itself," Thompson said. "There are some people who don't adhere to the guidelines, but those are the fringe and we already have rules to accommodate the punishment of those particular people.”

Although these bills might mean more business for Greenhouse, the owners say they’re against limiting caregivers. Instead, they want more enforcement of existing laws against those abusing the system.

“We support caregivers. We support their ability to grow this plant to help people, but what we don't support is the black market which is thriving right now,” Marra said. "There is a huge segment of the black market hiding behind the term "caregiver" and what they’re putting out there is untested product, mislabeled product, they don't check IDs, they sell counterfeit products. Enforcement needs to happen and that's what's not happening right now.”