Every state cannabis program operates differently. In Michigan, there are legal parameters around being a registered Caregiver. A Caregiver is someone who supplies medical cannabis to certain registered medical cannabis patients. In the state of Michigan, a Caregiver can service up to five patients at a time. While providing for these patients, the Caregiver may possess up to 2.5 ounces of cannabis per patient and can grow up to 12 plants per patient. Michigan cannabis license holders are increasingly frustrated by this law, claiming Caregivers pose safety concerns, contribute to the black market, and take profits away from legal shops.
One major cause for concern is that Caregivers are not only supplying to their registered patients; but, they are also contributing to the black market in Michigan. When recreational sales began in December 2020, only four shops throughout the whole state opened their doors for business. Due to immense start-up costs and licensing restrictions, this left cannabis still largely in the hands of the black market. Now, cannabis license holders are worried that a thriving black market brings safety concerns and takes money directly from the legal shops.
All cannabis sold through a state-licensed facility must go through lab testing. A third-party testing company will obtain samples of the product and test it for various molds, metals, or chemicals. After testing, the product is then given a pass or fail, which will dictate whether it ends up on dispensary shelves or not. Caregivers who grow their own plants at home to supply to their patients are not subject to these testing regulations. Legal cannabis business owners are concerned about the safety of this product distributed without any analysis. Despite home growers having cultivated and consumed this plant for decades without testing, the new standard shifts societal views on what may be safe and what might pose risks.
Aside from any real safety concerns that cannabis business owners may have, the nitty-gritty always lies in where the money goes. In this case, legal license holders argue that Caregivers being able to grow their own plants and supply to their own patients takes billions of dollars away from legal cannabis shops. While dispensaries generated $1 billion in sales during 2020, overall cannabis sales in Michigan were estimated at around $3.2 billion, revealing that a majority of cannabis purchases are still happening “off the books.”
The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association (MCMA) has made moves toward amending the rights of Caregivers due to these concerns. Creating a proposal and distributing it to representatives, the MCMA hopes to restrict the number of plants that Michigan Caregivers can grow along with requiring their product to be tested and tracked.
Although the true motives of the MCMA are unclear, whether moving forward in the name of safety or merely just wanting a bigger slice of the pie, Caregivers will not go without a fight. A group called Michigan Caregivers United has scheduled a rally at the Capitol on September 15th to speak out in their opposition to any new regulatory restrictions.