Opinion | Ending pot board is Whitmer payback to Michigan marijuana lobby

Don Bailey is a member of the Marijuana Facilities Licensing Board.

Today is the last meeting of the Marihuana Facilities Licensing Board (MFLB). By executive fiat, the governor has reached into the Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act  passed by the legislature in 2016 and struck a key component by eliminating the board, which is due to take effect at the end of the month. To say the state faces a significant problem going forward from here is an understatement by a factor of ten.

The governor has no authority to do this; changes to the legislation correctly occur with the Legislature taking action, but they refuse to intervene so it appears the executive order will stand. Public health, public safety and the entire state of Michigan lose with this executive order.

This decision is not about streamlining a cumbersome licensing process; this is about paying back the marijuana lobby and giving them what they want.”

The governor’s stated goal has been to move marijuana facilities applications through the system faster, laying the blame for the slow pace at the feet of the MFLB. Nothing is farther from the truth.

The MFLB has reviewed every application it has received from Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) Bureau of Marijuana Regulation. The slow down occurs because of the process required by the licensing act itself; it’s an extensive document collection and submission which then has to be analyzed and, as contemplated by the law, investigated.

With this order abolishing the board, the governor is paying back a very small special interest group, the recreational marijuana lobby. And make no mistake; there is no difference between the medical marijuana community and the recreational marijuana community. While there are certainly people using marijuana for medical purposes, medical marijuana is, and always was, a Trojan Horse for full legalization of recreational marijuana.

Both the attorney general and governor have publicly stated their allegiance to the marijuana lobby and credit their election victories in part to the marijuana support. The attorney general went further and said she wouldn’t be in office without them.

Related: Sea change for Michigan marijuana comes amidst industry chaos
Related: Whitmer kills Michigan marijuana licensing board in favor of new agency
Related: Meet the ex-drug cop who now helps regulate Michigan marijuana

The perception of our elected officials, particularly at the highest level, being controlled by a special interest group is very troubling. The marijuana lobby represents somewhere between 3 percent and 5 percent of Michigan citizens, but hold complete sway over our state’s top administration and the important policy decisions which are being made to regulate marijuana, a Schedule 1 controlled substance.

No, this decision is not about streamlining a cumbersome licensing process; this is about paying back the marijuana lobby and giving them what they want. Many criminals and bad actors have been in the business for years, and they see the requirements of the MFLA as an impediment. The only way to speed up the process is to triple the staff at the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and do a much less thorough vetting of applicants. As it stands right now, very little meaningful investigation is taking place. Only the most egregious applicants are being identified and culled out of the process.

The marijuana lobby is driving the marijuana policy bus. It certainly looked that way for the previous two years with the last LARA director. When she left her position in state government at the end of 2018 and immediately signed on as a marijuana lobbyist, it becomes very clear.

The decision to allow temporary operations for marijuana business was ill-conceived and amounted to temporary licenses for criminals to continue to break the law. This was a decision by the marijuana lobby, passed to the LARA director, and done with no authority. Breaking the law was given tacit approval by the bureau and created an untenable situation in the courts and for law enforcement.

Related: Whitmer administration changing tone around Michigan marijuana regulation

By allowing the unlicensed, illegal operations for the past two years, the bureau has caused an explosion in the black-market cultivation, processing and sales of marijuana. It will not contract on its own and the attorney general has said that she will not pursue these “victimless” marijuana violations.

Public safety suffers, public health suffers and law enforcement is being thwarted by our policy makers. One of the biggest losers in this is, and will continue to be, the current marijuana facility license holders. Their licenses to operate have been rendered worthless.

Those who have followed the law are forced to compete against criminals who can provide more marijuana product at cheaper prices. Unlicensed operators haven’t invested the time and money into required regulations and safety compliance testing.

It’s estimated up to 90 percent of unlicensed caregiver marijuana products fail testing for heavy metals, pesticides, salmonella, or E. coli. With the policy decisions of the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation, a licensed facility is at an extreme disadvantage in the marketplace.

Going forward, an equilibrium needs to be restored.

We need to reach a place where honest and law-abiding applicants and licensees are given deference over black-market operators. This will be a big task. Many of the marijuana lobbyists have vowed to not stop and I believe them. The health of our state, the health and safety of our citizens and communities, is at stake.

The black market has exploded in Michigan in the past two years and we’re now a source state for illegal marijuana for the entire Midwest, and it’s due in large part to the policy decisions being made. One only needs to look at the activities at the Hash Bash held recently in Ann Arbor. Vendors were set up on the streets and in hotels, tables piled high with marijuana and marijuana products and being sold to anyone; no medical status or age verification required. All of it unlicensed, untested and unregulated in any way.

Getting marijuana licensing and regulation under control might seem to be an impossible task, and it certainly will be with the current policy decisions and lack of leadership from our state’s highest office holders.

Special interest groups have to be abandoned for the good of the entire state. The bureau has some outstanding employees who are fully capable of proper and thorough vetting, investigation and enforcement of the state licensing act.  Policy needs to allow them to do just that.

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Comments

John Q. Public
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 12:48am

So what? Bailey on the board was Snyder's payback to the police lobby.

george
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 8:36am

Mr Bailey seems to think marijuana is still an illegal drug and needs to be controlled by those who are opposed to it being legal. We got rid of Schuette for a reason.

Thomas C. Glover
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:51am

exactly

richard scott
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 8:59am

The process of regulating and finding ways to measure toxic levels of thc and regulate driving under influence as well as evaluating the presence of toxic compounds is necessary.
The pot today is not your grandmother’s. And criminals can add exciting compounds to the product.
The criminals now growing their own and sharing are not lke the criminals we have found who invented, marketed and educated physicians. Marijuana seems to,help some with terminal cancer and with painful neuropathies. However the medical literature is yet
co. Recent long review in New Yorker is not judgmental but illustrates what we don’t know. If marijuana is as much a medicine as cocaine, opium, alcohol and OxyContin, it deserves ongoing care in monitoring its safety and manufacture. Last night JAMA posted article on toxic compounds in ACE inhibitors causing recall . This most common antihypertensive is manufactured in many sites . Finding presence of possible carcinogenic materials frightening.

Bill Swift
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 12:22pm

"The criminals now growing their own and sharing are not lke the criminals we have found who invented, marketed and educated physicians. "

Ummmm. We and they aren't criminals anymore, gramps.

Jill
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 5:14pm

Mr. Scott you have obviously limited your reading to articles that agree with your personal beliefs. There are many articles that show the benefits of cannabis in medical use. "monitoring its safety and manufacture" is typical white privileged code for we will not approve it until we can make money off your illness. Shame on you Mr. Scott!

Mi citizen
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 5:56pm

WTF are you talking about? White privilege? As somebody who has supported marijuana legalization for over 30 years and supports zero taxes and regulations on marijuana, I find your comment not only offensive, but extremely ignorant. Constantly making references to racism does nothing but reduce the significance of the real thing. People like yourself should be ashamed, there is racism in the world, but unfortunately most of it will not be realized because people like you are too busy using it to describe anybody who dares to disagree with you

Bill
Sun, 04/28/2019 - 1:43pm

Please don't forget YOU are a "white privileged woman and probably also a racist". You should include that moniker about yourself when calling others who are white, "privileged". My bet is you NEVER brought home any African American friends like I did and you also had the privilege of going to college, while minorities were denied. Shame on you for being so ignorant!

Mrs A
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 7:46pm

Except that cannabis is an herb, not a pharmaceutical compound. Unlike alcohol, opiates, and narcotics, its LD:50 is Zero. The Schedule 1 classification was always erroneous - even Nixon's medical advisors confirmed it didn't belong there. It never prevented people from seeking out cannabis, just prevented clinical testing to demonstrate actual therapeutic usage and identify the properties of different strains. Criminals have long grown or imported weed, but why would anyone go there anymore when there are legal options at reasonable prices? You don't see folks opting for bathtub gin anymore when they can stop by a party store for a product that is standardized, regulated, taxed, and age ID checked. I mean, you could still make bathtub gin but why would you bother?

Cannabis really does have therapeutic properties as an anodyne, anti-nausea, and anti-anxiety drug, but does not create harmful side effects or have potential for overdose, unlike tobacco or alcohol which have long been legal and commonly used. Humans evolved cannabinoid receptors in our brains, and archeological evidence shows cannabis has been used for over 10,000 years on several continents. My local dispensary provides cannabis in several forms, all of them identified, tracked, monitored, scientifically analyzed, labeled with THC content, and barcoded. Your concerns signal you are not a recreational user nor a medical cannabis patient, and you appear to be caught in the criminal justice trap of thinking that cannabis is a danger that it has never been. Millions of people use this herb daily and have for centuries. Michigan needs to get the recreational product out to the people who voted it in, start collecting that tax revenue which will benefit everyone, users and non-users alike.

Bill Charles
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:39am

I fail to understand how these Executives in government, local. State and Federal, feel they can ignore duly passed laws. The governor and other executives make a mockery of the law when they do this. I cannot pick and choose the laws I wish to follow, the governor should be held to the same standards as I am.
Go back to the legislature and change the law, don't break the law.

Daniel B Sabo
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 2:39pm

Then why is Rich Snyder not in prison for the mass poisoning of Flint?

Bob
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:41am

Ah, bull. The previous board was an homage to other interests. Plus officers are bummed that the low-hanging fruit of easy pot busts are now off the table.

LLA
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:50am

"The perception of our elected officials, particularly at the highest level, being controlled by a special interest group is very troubling." Is Mr. Bailey really this naive? Every single sector of the economy has a lobbying arm or special interest group, including police and fire. He also significantly downplays the statewide support marijuana has among public citizens.

"Special interest groups have to be abandoned for the good of the entire state." Does this include police special interests (cough, civil asset forfeiture, cough) or just special interests in which Mr. Bailey don't agree with?

John
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:13am

Sorry Officer Bailey, I appreciate your service but hard to see how you possibly serve effectively on MFLB when you are so clearly anti-marijuana. And clearly the governor has the legal authority to make this administrative change. I find it striking that you do not mention of the new Marijuana Regulatory Agency, acting instead as if we are heading into the Wild West when Gov. Whitmer simply changed the regulatory board. No doubt she may well have been motivated by your individual presence on MFLB , though clearly the MFLB's decision to shutter 100 facilities last year also played a role. I do share your concern about the health impacts of marijuana (both licensed and black market) and the proliferation of the black market under the new law. Thankfully, that black market is still illegal, and so my fellow citizens and I hope that this is where you and your law enforcement colleagues turn your attention. Thanks again for your service.

Chris
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:16am

"And make no mistake; there is no difference between the medical marijuana community and the recreational marijuana community. While there are certainly people using marijuana for medical purposes, medical marijuana is, and always was, a Trojan Horse for full legalization of recreational marijuana. "

And this, right here, is why you should never have been appointed to this board, and evidence that this board was NOT interested in carrying out their duties of licensing medical marijuana facilities in good faith. Medical marijuana patients will be far better off without self-professed obstructionists such as yourself slow walking the licensing of medical marijuana facilities, which has caused tremendous physical harm and emotional distress to patients as well as economic harm to communities and businesses.

LLA
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 11:28am

Precisely!

Gary Lea
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:19am

Whew, lots of statements without presenting sources. Here's an idea: we Michiganders will insist and demand that Michigan continues to test products intended for ingestion no differently than it does presently. Repeat offenders should be required to reimburse the state for laboratory testing costs.

Jill
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 5:06pm

Just curious why what I ingested from 2008 (legalized medical use) until 2019 was of no concern. Only now when someone can make the almighty dollar is it an issue. Please don't be naive, testing is not for the consumer.

Jim Watkins
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 11:54am

Please click on Don Bailey Michigan in your browser. If you spend a few minutes learning about Don Bailey , you will see exactly where he comes from.

Jim
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 12:13pm

It's unfortunate Bailey plays loose with facts (opinions) and doesn't substantiate anything he writes with actual references.
For instance: "It’s estimated up to 90 percent of unlicensed caregiver marijuana products fail testing.." 1) Who made the estimate? 2) Who ran the tests?
And this one: "The marijuana lobby represents somewhere between 3 percent and 5 percent of Michigan citizens.." Really? I thought that the ballot was passed by 60% of the electorate.
Gov. Whitmer's order is supported by the Senate Majority Leader & the House Speaker, both Republicans. Even the board’s chairman, Rick Johnson, who is a former state House speaker said, “the best way to do it is probably streamline it like that,” adding "it makes sense to have one entity to handle such things as licenses, enforcement, payment and taxes."
What it all comes down to is that Bailey is miffed that he will lose a nice stipend to his MSP pension.

Daniel B Sabo
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 5:57pm

From the article:

“The decision to allow temporary operations for marijuana business was ill-conceived and amounted to temporary licenses for criminals to continue to break the law. This was a decision by the marijuana lobby, passed to the LARA director, and done with no authority. Breaking the law was given tacit approval by the bureau and created an untenable situation in the courts and for law enforcement.”

- Don Bailey, Former Michigan State Trooper, and former member of the Marijuana Facilities Licensing Board.

- My first question I would have for this man, is WHICH Marijuana lobby? The lobbyists that represent caregivers? Or the lobbyists that represent BIG MONEY CANNABIS? There are several Pro Marijuana lobbyist groups. Unfortunately, the former state trooper and former member of the Marijuana Facilities Licensing Board, left that important information out of his horribly researched op-ed, which sounds more line an Anti Marijuana opinion piece than anything else…

David
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 8:40pm

With law enforcement's overbearing and pervasive influence over the law-making process, I find Bailey's comments laughable. His commentary proves that the licensing board was no place for someone with such a biased view and a complete and total contempt for Cannabis, whether for recreational or medical use. Sour grapes, plain and simple. Bye bye, Mr. Bailey, and good riddance.

Ron Klug
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 9:37pm

Don common, The times They Are A Changing. Your Old Word Establishment is no longer in Command.

Alex
Thu, 04/25/2019 - 10:05pm

"The slow down occurs because of the process required by the licensing act itself; it’s an extensive document collection and submission which then has to be analyzed and, as contemplated by the law, investigated."

With this statement, Don Bailey attempts to cast the blame away from himself for furthering the current mess that is Michigan cannabis regulation. He admits that the BMR offered licenses too slowly, but wrongly blames the licensing act. Although complex, this act leaves room for much interpretation, and Don chose to interpret the investigative role as a vendetta against anybody involved in the cannabis industry before he personally got to pick and choose. Regularly characterizing these individuals as criminals, he continuously pushed for the unrealistic plan to eliminate everybody from a ten year old industry and start fresh with new big money players. This is a continuation of his career as a man protecting people who do not use cannabis from the medicine sought out by a quarter million Michiganders currently holding legal medical marihuana cards. Rather than focus on protecting patients, Bailey used his time on the board to continue penalizing those he saw as criminals despite the fact the state no longer does. He is losing his own war on drugs, and this opinion piece is an attempt to spin the blame onto the incoming administration instead of the previous one that chose not to regulate for a decade.

It is unfortunate that cannabis regulation has turned into this large, emotional mess. Simply put, cannabis, like all other industries should be controlled in a manner that protects the public without the burden of bureaucratic convolutions. Cannabis needs to be tested to ensure quality products with accurate dosing, free of heavy metals and pesticides are being properly labeled before being sold to consumers. This, however, has not been the focus of many people aligned with Don Bailey. They are concerned with the straw man of dangerous pot, worried it will cause pile ups on every freeway and lead to rampant hard drug addiction. This narrative has emboldened an equally illogical backlash from many cannabis users who want no government regulation and especially no taxation. Michigan obviously needs something more moderate. Cannabis is an intoxicant that can be abused; however, this abuse very rarely creates an addiction and has been linked to fewer deaths than lettuce. https://www.fda.gov/food/recallsoutbreaksemergencies/outbreaks/ucm604254...

Daniel B Sabo
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 2:37pm

This Op Ed by Don Bailey is nothing more than his whining about getting fired from his job by a LIBERAL Female governor.

He needs to put on his big boy pants and get over it. Weed is now legal in Michigan by majority vote and he is very angry about that. The man has been anti pot his whole career - as most cops are.

Baily seems to forget that the majority of Michigan voters are the people who were signing his pay checks, and now his pension. He should stop acting like a child and be grateful he has a good retirement package thanks to the people who just voted to legalize weed in Michigan.

Daniel B Sabo
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 2:42pm

Mr Bailey,

Since you have lost your position on the Michigan Pot Board, and are most likely bored, I am sure some school district would be willing to hire you part time to search High School lockers for bags of weed.

It would keep you busy. Maybe you can take a night course there and learn how to write.

middle of the mit
Fri, 04/26/2019 - 7:46pm

Mr Bailey,

I would suggest that the reason there are still unlicensed dispensers is because people like you still think they are doing something illegal. And if they are, it is because of people like you making it illegal.

If you make something that is supposed to be legal and refuse to allow people other than the wealthy people to sell it, guess what?

Do onerous rules and regulations ring a bell? Do polluters of streams and land and water tables have to pay a $66,000 per license or have $500,000 in capital to do business? Does a mechanic or farmer?

As for safety, could you please remind the public about the last State wide Public Service Announcement that the State Police, local sheriffs and radio and TV stations have been running?

Weren't they for sober people texting while driving?

Isn't that the real problem on the roads?

Trump supportin...
Wed, 05/01/2019 - 10:49pm

Why is this guy allowed to be a police officer? Who would want someone so stupid and moronic protecting them and their family? obviously a crooked cop.

Also ive never heard of bridgemi before but it seems like a fake news website.