Michigan medical marijuana patients can now get approval, medication without delay

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One more roadblock has been demolished that stood in the way of Michigan medical marijuana patients and reliable, safe access to cannabis treatment. On Wednesday, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (which oversees both medical and recreational cannabis in the state) announced that patients can use their approval email from registering in the program to buy cannabis, rather than waiting for a physical registry card to be sent in the mail.

“A process that used to take several weeks now can be done in a single day,” commented MRA Executive Director Andrew Brisbo to Click On Detroit. “We are excited to offer this new online approval option for the state’s medical marijuana patients.”

Before the change, patients had to wait for their their registry card to arrive to begin buying medical marijuana. Even with a recently instituted online processing system, that often meant a lag in seven to 10 business days for them to be ready to go.

Now, patients are authorized to obtain medical cannabis at a licensed dispensary merely by heading over to the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) website, uploading the appropriate documents, and presenting their confirmation email to a dispensary.

Michigan’s medical marijuana program has been in the process of expansion and improving access to the state’s patients ever since its first licensed dispensaries opened their doors in November of 2018 (the Michigan Medical Marijuana Program was approved in 2008, but lagged in providing access points for its participants.)

But the process of establishing the supply system has not been without its challenges. The amount of marijuana that is available for sale through authorized dispensaries — or provisioning centers, as they have been called in the state since a 2018 regulatory change up — has been outpaced by demand. It’s gotten to the point where a Court of Claims judge had to block a “drop-dead date” once again in March for unlicensed dispensaries due to concerns over patient access and affordability. Critics of the judicial block say that it will only extend patient access to marijuana that may not have been properly tested, and may contain fungus or other contaminants. At the beginning of the year, over 70 such unlicensed dispensaries were forced to shut down over such concerns.   

To address worries over access, this spring Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed an executive order that did away with the previous Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, opting instead for a (hopefully) more streamlined agency that would oversee medical and recreational cannabis industries called the Marijuana Regulatory Agency, to be overseen by LARA.

Despite such kerfuffles, the medical industry has managed to rack up $42 million in sales over its first four months. Such is the popularity and lucrativeness of the program that officials have considered lowering the registration fee that is required of patients.

The proposed registration fee changes were due to the fact that the medical marijuana program has turned out to be financially self-sustaining. “The revenue generated based on the current application fee for the past three years is approximately 90-100% more than (the department’s) operational expenses,” announced LARA in February.

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