Michigan hopes to teach others as nation moves closer to full marijuana legalization


As Congress considers potentially legalizing marijuana, or at least removing it from the list of schedule 1 drugs deemed to have “no accepted medical use,” the growing number of states that allow marijuana use are unifying.

Michigan marijuana licensing officials joined up with counterparts from 19 other states to form a national marijuana regulators association, the state licensing agency announced last week.

Dubbed the Cannabis Regulators Association, the group now includes representatives from across the nation and is meant to be a sounding board for member states, as well as a resource for others considering legalization.

The group started “informally meeting and sharing best practices and as we all got to know each other, we realized there were lessons to be learned from different states,” Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo said. “We expect (the number of members) to climb as more states are legalizing for personal or adult use purposes and certainly those conversations are evolving in some of those states and some of the perspectives on the national lever are starting to shift as well …

“It’s of critical importance to consider how we all could work together to ensure the safest possible access for consumers.”

Much of Michigan’s regulatory system, from the seed-to-sale tracking and inventory system to the testing regulations, are borrowed from states with more mature marijuana markets.

“We looked at what issues we saw burgeoning in other states that have more mature markets and dealt with those head on,” Brisbo said. “So when we implemented the adult-use program, things like delivery services, designated consumption establishments and temporary events, those are things that were part of the conversation that were bubbling up in other more mature states.”

The Cannabis Regulators Association is nonpartisan and takes no public stance on legalization.

“The association will strive to create and promote harmony and standardization across jurisdictions which choose to legalize and regulate cannabis,” said Norman Birenbaum, who currently serves as the director of New York’s regulatory system. “The Cannabis Regulators Association will also work to ensure federal officials benefit from the vast experiences of states across the nation to ensure any changes to federal law adequately address states’ needs and priorities.”

Brisbo said if the feds come knocking, state legislators are ready and willing to share their knowledge and resources. The U.S. House of Representatives is expected to vote on the Marijuana Opportunity Reinvestment and Expungement Act of 2019, which would decriminalize marijuana nationally, in December.

Brisbo said much of the discussion among states is surrounding inclusion and social equity efforts to ensure the markets are accessible to more than just the wealthiest companies, and especially those who have been harmed by prior marijuana prohibition.

More on MLive:

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Marijuana drinks could be coming to Michigan

Michigan stands to gain more than $1B as recreational marijuana shops open

Medical marijuana blazed a trail for cannabis in Michigan. Now, recreational takes the lead.

Michigan marijuana industry changed, but thriving amid coronavirus pandemic



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