Just days after Gov. Rick Snyder issued rules policing medical marijuana businesses, we learned how the the state will begin accepting license applications under a new regulatory system. Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs' Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation director Andrew Brisbo talked about the process with WKAR's Brooke Allen on "Morning Edition."
The emergency rules will remain in effect for at least six months until permanent ones are finalized. They regulate varied topics including advertising, security requirements and how much capital businesses must have to get into growing, processing, selling, transporting or testing marijuana.
Here is a transcript of the interview with Allen and Brisbo:
Allen: Since June, WKAR news has closely covered the issue of medical marijuana in Michigan and early this week, Governor Rick Snyder signed emergency rules regarding the implementation of the medical marijuana facility’s licensing act. So the bottom line, if you are operate or are a customer of a medical marijuana business in Michigan, these rules effect you. Joining us is Andrew Brisbo, he is the director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation which is within Laura. Thank you for joining us.
Brisbo: Thank you for having me on.
Allen: So we need to clarify the emergency rules. Just go ahead and start cause it’s confusing.
Brisbo: So the statue authorized administrative rules and also emergency administrative rules. And the essential difference there is the process for promulgating emergency rules is a shorter process. We didn’t have a lot of time after the statue was passed to implement these rules and the rules that were passed necessary in order to start the program so the intention all along was to issue emergency rules that would be the essential framework to start taking applications and issuing licenses and allowing these facilities to operate. And at the same time, we’re working on the permanent rules, as I’ll call them, which is a lengthier process that involves public input and review by the legislature as well.
Allen: These rules were supposed to come out before Thanksgiving.
Brisbo: We had intended to issue them before Thanksgiving, correct, but most times, emergency rules are done very quickly and are quite short, a couple pages at most. Our emergency rules had to cover a pretty wide swath and get pretty in depth about some of the topics that we’re regulating here so the rule set ended up being 33 pages. That being the case, every step in the process, in the legal review and the governor’s review, everything took a little bit longer than usual so we were about a week behind where we wanted to be, but still a couple weeks in advance of actually taking the applications.
Allen: And again emergency, you kind of think “oh no, it’s an emergency,” so that just condors up a whole different thought process and that’s really not the case.
Brisbo: It’s more out of necessity. The statue calls them emergency rules and that just establishes a different process that doesn’t require such a long time frame to get through the process.
Allen: OK so whether you’re a medical marijuana grower, processor or dispensary, people will need to know a lot of things before applying for a license and that licensing process is opening when?
Brisbo: We start taking applications December 15 for all five facility types that are authorized under the act. Those are provisioning centers, growers, processors, secure transports and safety compliance facilities, which are like testing labs. We’ll start taking those applications next week. We have to conduct a thorough background investigation of all the applicants which is going to take a bit of time and then we’ll start issuing the licenses. The medical marijuana licensing board has the final say in the issuing of licenses so everything we review will be packaged up and sent to them and they’ll review those at a public meeting before issuing any licenses. We’re going to analyze all the principles of any applicant to determine their eligibility. We’re also going to make sure that the facility meets all of the standards as promulgated in the emergency rules as well as the statute. And we’re going to make sure, before we issue a license to any facility, they have to have municipal authorization through an ordinance before they cn operate as well.
Allen: Explain that.
Brisbo: So municipalities under the act have to opt in to allow these facilities to operate within their boundaries. They have zoning authority, they can set zoning standards, they can set any qualifications related to the operation of facilities that don’t conflict with the state law. Now the state is the authorizing body that will give the licenses to these facilities, but will only do that if the municipality has authorized their operation. And they can restrict the types of facilities that can operate, they don’t have to allow all five and they can set a cap on the number of facilities that can operate within their munincipality as well.
Allen: So if a municipality did not opt in, than no marijuana would be allowed in that area, correct?
Brisbo: Correct, we would not issue a license to a facility if there was not an authorizing ordinance, that’s right.
Allen: OK so now let’s talk about the cost of all of this.
Brisbo: Sure, so there are a couple costs authorized under the act. There is an application fee at the time of application that we will collect, that’s $6,000. That is meant to offset the cost of a background investigation that we will be conducting. There’s also a regularity assessment which is paid just before the issuance of the license. We haven’t set that fee yet. We want to get a good sense of how many applicants we have and how many licenses we’ll issue so we’ll set that fee appropriately to offset the costs of that are statutorily authorized to be covered by that regulatory assessment. And provisioning centers will also have to collect 3% excise tax on the sales that are made to patients and to caregivers through their facility. In addition to all of that, those are all the state level fees if you will, municipalities can also charge up to $5,000 per year for a facility that is operating within their boundaries as well.
Allen: So what if somebody applies for an application and they’re turned down, do they get their money back?
Brisbo: They do not, those fees are non-refundable.
Allen: Is it possible for the state to say yes and a municipality to say no?
Brisbo: So we wouldn’t issue a license unless they were authorized by the municipality though an ordinance. So that’s going to be part of our validation process before we issue a license. But we did split the process up at the state level so an applicant can apply and conduct, have the background check conducted and be pre-qualified, we call it. So that should they not be able to operate the municipality where they were hoping to locate, they can use that prequalification to apply for a license for a facility in another location or for operators who want to operate multiple facilities, they go through the background check process once and then submit multiple license applications as a secondary process.
Allen: So they don’t have to keep paying the fee?
Allen: OK and if they get turned down by one municipality, they could apply somewhere else?
Brisbo: Presuming they pass the state back ground check, correct.
Allen: So how many applications do you think you’re going to get?
Brisbo: That is a tough thing to estimate. We hear different things from different people. We’re prepared to have a pretty high volume of applications. We’ve set the process up so applicants can apply any way they choose. We will accept applications online, in person, or through the mail so we want to make the process as easy to follow as possible. But it’s difficult to predict how many applications we are going to get, particularly over the first couple of days. We know there is a great deal of interest, but depending on how fast municipalities opt in and the applicants’ success in finding a location to operate, we could get a lot at the beginning or they could come in slowly over time.
Allen: So how long do you think this process is going to take for an applicant to know that they’re approved? Is that the right word?
Brisbo: Correct. We would approve and issue a license at the end. It’s probably going to take a few months for us to start issuing licenses. So we’ll start taking them in December and we hope to be issuing licenses by the end of March or early April.
Allen: What is the biggest question that your office has had so far?
Brisbo: So we get a lot of questions about the process and about the local authorization and the inner play of that with the state licensure. We’ve tried to address some of the big picture questions through advisories even before the emergency rules were promulgated such as can different facility types operate at the same location, whether an applicant for a grow license could acquire multiple licenses in the same location. So a class seed grow license allows 1,500 plants, but some larger operators want to have more, higher plant count than that so we did clarify that the emergency rules will allow them to have multiple class seed grow licenses at the same location and we do allow for the co-location of facilities. We also clarified through the rules what the testing processes will look like. Testing is obviously a big component of this to ensure safe patient access so we outlined what the requirements were for the safety compliance facilities when they do tests on the medical marijuana. And it all has to be tested before it can be sold through a provisioning center.
Allen: So during the hearings across the state, a lot of people did express concern that medical marijuana patients could go without their prescriptions during the licensing process. What do you say to that?
Brisbo: Well we address that concern, we did hear that concern and what we did through the emergency rules is that we provided a process by which facilities that were currently operating, if they did so with municipal authorization and they applied by February 15, their continued operation would not be held against them when considering issuing a license. So we feel as though that allows for patients, particularly those the most vulnerable with patients who have the greatest need and are operating through existing faculties, they can continue to work through those facilities without it impacting the operators opportunity to get a license, assuming again that they have local authorization to do so.
Allen: OK so again, the application process is open on December 15.
Allen: And you said they will be accepted by mail, in-person…
Brisbo: In-person and online so we do have an online application process.
Allen: OK and we will have all of that at WKAR.org. We’ve been speaking with Andrew Brisbo. He is the director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation within Laura. And a reminder that you can go to WKAR.org and look for the marijuana in Michigan section on the right-hand side of the page. We have all of our stories on this topic right there for you.