Michigan’s marijuana retailers, cultivators clash as tensions rise

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As the state’s marijuana industry grows, participants are feeling the growing pains

Michigan is dealing with a marijuana problem and it’s one that shouldn’t even be an issue. Tomorrow, a Michigan Court of Claims judge is to decide whether or not to extend a deadline that would allow licensed centers to purchase untested marijuana from primary caregivers, individuals who are registered with the state to cultivate plants but who do not have grower licenses. It’s a problem because, if the judge denies the extension, many businesses could be forced to close. It has turned into a major public debate, with licensed growers leading the push to have the caregivers shut down.

There are currently 22 licensed growers in Michigan. There are also 72 licensed dispensaries and almost 293,000 medical marijuana patients. Without the caregivers contributing to the state’s supply, the licensed growers are not enough to cover all of Michigan’s medical marijuana needs.

The growers don’t seem to care about whether or not there’s enough supply – they’re only interested in their bottom line. They argue that the caregivers are undercutting their prices and leaving them with large amounts of supply that they’re not able to move. The solution seems rather simple.

One licensed retailer, The Curing Corner LLC in River Rouge, has already sued the state in order to get the deadline extended. It hopes to have it pushed out to December 31, which is when more licensed cannabis solutions should be made available. The company’s attorney, Michelle Donovan, explains, “Licensed growers and processors, they can’t support the 300,000 medical marijuana patients right now. We want to keep the supply chain operating.”

That’s irrelevant, according to Jason Pasko of licensed cultivator VB Chesaning LLC. The company has seen its sales drop by 75% and he asserts, “If the deadline is extended to Dec. 31, it would put every single legal (grower) operator out of business. The whole purpose of putting this legalization law into place was to have safe, tested product available that’s legal for people that need it in the state of Michigan. What is happening now smacks directly in the face of what was supposed to happen.”

It’s a delicate situation that doesn’t have a perfect immediate solution. Either ban the caregivers and deprive medical marijuana patients of their supply or approve the extension and cause businesses to potentially incur financial losses. Of course, if they were to lower their expectations and margins, the sting wouldn’t be so bad and patients wouldn’t suffer.