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Marijuana advocates form trade association

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TUESDAY, Jan. 15 — As a statewide medical marijuana shortage continues to pervade Michigan, a newly formed trade association aims to streamline the licensing process and provide a unified voice for the industry.

The Michigan Cannabis Industry Association — formed by the same advocates that stood behind legalization efforts through the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol — launched earlier this afternoon.

“With almost no access left to medicine for patients and empty shelves in our members’ facilities, solutions need to be put in place immediately that allow patients to obtain their medicine,” said Robin Schneider, former finance director of the “Yes on Proposal 1” campaign and the executive director of the new industry association.

Although dozens of dispensaries have been licensed by the state’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board, only a few have been able to stock their inventories as kinks in the supply chain create a statewide product shortage. Both licensed dispensaries in Lansing remained closed. Others have drastically curtailed their operations.

Recent state regulations effectively banned pot shops from purchasing products from anywhere other than a handful of licensed processors or growing facilities. And with only 29 licensed growing facilities statewide and many still months from harvest, concerns over the state’s supply and demand have grown.

“We’ll be working to find ways to resolve these issues and get the industry back up and running,” Schneider said.

Marijuana advocates are also leaning on state legislators and Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s incoming administration to help find a solution. And they’ll have help from at least 50 people who have joined the new trade association. Schneider said focus areas will include fair rules and regulations for an equitable participation in the market.

Communications Director Josh Hovey, the spokesman for the recent legalization campaign, said detailed action plans haven’t yet been assembled. Rolling back rules that could again allow dispensaries to purchase products from licensed caregivers would only serve as a short-term solution, he emphasized.

“A longer-term solution would help to improve and speed up the licensing process,” Hovey added.

A spokesman for the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs was aware of the supply concerns and noted officials will continue to monitor the issue and determine if “any additional steps” need to be taken. Until then, any caregiver-supplied marijuana will still need to undergo additional testing before it can be sold.

Schneider announced the formation of the industry association alongside dozens of entrepreneurs, state lawmakers and medical marijuana patients. She hopes to work with regulators to “roll up their sleeves” and ensure that the medical and yet-to-be-formed recreational marijuana markets continue to move forward.

“We’re really standing on the edge of a new industry here in Michigan that’s going to employ thousands of people and bring in real revenue to fix some long-standing issues in government,” said State Sen. Jeff Irwin, D-Ann Arbor, pointing to crumbling roads and education funding. “It’s important that we get it right.”

In addition to promoting sensible laws and regulations, the newly -minted trade organization also aims to provide professional development and banking opportunities for four separate membership tiers. Annual costs for members range between $1,150 to $50,000 annually.

Visit micannabisindustryassociation.org for details.

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