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Hundreds of cannabis brands defend caregivers in Michigan

Updated: Aug 26


Kyle Kaminski

(This story was updated at 12:40 p.m.)

THURSDAY, July 1 — Hundreds of cannabis companies — including several brands in Greater Lansing — are pushing back against early plans from a shadowy group of corporate lobbyists who reportedly want to ramp up state regulations for medical marijuana caregivers and patients.

Early plans from the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association to peel back existing plant and patient allowances for medical marijuana caregivers created a rift in the state’s cannabis industry that began in May. Multiple state lawmakers then told City Pulse that the group had been shopping bills that would also require those products be tested at a licensed laboratory.

Activists and caregivers quickly cried foul over the plans to ramp up restrictions, claiming that any changes would only throw a wrench into longtime patient-caregiver relationships and steer up to 72,000 medical marijuana patients away from their caregivers and into licensed shops.

The controversial proposal also triggered some activists to boycott several popular pot brands affiliated with the MCMA — including Skymint and High Life Farms in Lansing. Pleasantrees was also on that boycott list until its CEO and founder Randy Buchman resigned from the group.

And while the MCMA’s plans have yet to transform themselves into any actual pending state legislation, more than 250 cannabis brands and companies have signed on to a petition (of sorts) this week that demands that no changes be made to the state’s Medical Marihuana Act.

Among the Greater Lansing brands and organizations that are pushing back against the MCMA’s plans: The Botanical Co. and Franklin Fields in Lansing, Local Roots Cannabis in Laingsburg, as well as Redemption Cannabis, UBaked, Fresh Coast Extracts, the Michigan Democratic Party Cannabis Caucus, Freedom Coalition and Business Development Group.

The MCMA, the trade group spearheading the crackdown on caregivers, formed in 2019 to “operate exclusively for the promotion of cannabis manufacturers by promoting the common business interests and general welfare of the industry,” according to records in state filings.

Its executive director, Steve Linder, is a longtime lobbyist in state politics and a Republican activist with a history of advocating for more stringent cannabis regulations. Among its board of directors are executives with High Life Farms, Skymint, LivWell and Common Citizen, which Linder has described as the “General Motors, Fords and Chryslers” of the weed business.

Until he resigned last month, Buchman, who is a former caregiver, had served as its president. He has since been replaced by LivWell executive Shelly Edgerton, the former state licensing and regulatory affairs director who helped create the state’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency.

Neither Linder and Edgerton nor executives from any association members have returned calls to City Pulse. The group represents more than a dozen companies, but only a handful have been identified — namely because their executives are listed as directors in state records. A public relations firm hired by the MCMA also refused to identify its members.

A spokesman, instead, told City Pulse that the MCMA represents “nearly half of all multiple Class C cannabis licenses” with a combined economic impact of “nearly $1 billion” in Michigan.

The boycott efforts have also expanded to include brands affiliated with the trade group’s members, including Fluresh, Two Joints, Jolly Edibles, North, Short’s Brewing, Petra, Wana, Sherbinski’s, Kiva Confections, DNA Genetics, Clout King, Chief Solventless and Crown Jewels.

DNA Genetics has reportedly distanced itself from companies affiliated with the MCMA after its plans went public last month, though its products are still available at Skymint in Lansing. The Botanical Co. and Franklin Fields also vowed to stop buying products tied to MCMA brands.

“We stand with our fellow industry professionals in their efforts to stop the attack on caregivers. It is our belief that our industry thrives when small businesses and caregivers can flourish,” officials said in a joint statement. “Our customers and patients remain at the core of what we do and to ensure they continue to have access to the products they rely on, we are actively pursuing the sourcing of high quality products from companies that more align with our mission.”

State law allows licensed caregivers to cultivate up to 12 marijuana plants or purchase up to 2.5 ounces of product for up to five different patients — enabling a harvest of up to 72 plants if the caregiver is also registered as a medical marijuana patient. Unlike retailers, caregivers are not required to submit any lengthy business plans to state officials or pay as much in licensing fees.

Their products also don’t have to be tested at one of the state’s 17 licensed safety laboratories.

The MCMA’s plans reportedly include a new cap of 12 plants for caregivers and a requirement that their products be tracked and tested. The proposed changes have also been billed as a way to cut back on “black market” sales, allowing inspections of grow operations by local police.

State records showed there are about 30,000 caregivers servicing more than 250,000 patients outside of the $1.47 billion licensed retail market in Michigan, including more than 1,200 caregivers and 8,600 patients across Greater Lansing in Ingham, Eaton and Clinton counties. State officials said about 72,000 patients statewide are connected to a licensed caregiver.

The MCMA’s plans would reportedly steer caregivers into a similar regulatory structure required of licensed retailers, pushed as a way to bolster patient safety with new mandates that caregiver harvests also be tested for pesticides, heavy metals and other potentially harmful additives.

Many pot activists, however, would prefer to keep the status quo and have argued that there is very little evidence to suggest that untested caregiver-grown marijuana creates any sort of public health risk. Robin Schneider, the executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, said her group (and its 300 members) will also oppose any proposed changes.

“Most of our members are too busy growing their businesses to worry about caregivers,” Schneider said on a recent episode of Jazz Cabbage Cafe. “It’s just not a priority for them. It’s not on their agenda and they also don’t believe in reigniting the war on drugs in order to shore up profit margins. We won’t be supporting anything that is harmful to patients or caregivers.”

After the boycott took off last month, Schneider said businesses affiliated with her organization started to see a rise in sales from retailers who were “being more thoughtful” about product selection. She also cautioned local consumers to be patient with stores, noting that even the most mindful companies will require time to restock their shelves with alternative brands.

Schneider also labeled brands affiliated with the MCMA as “idiots” — namely for “spending a bunch of money and trying to ruin other people’s lives and your brands simultaneously.”

Rick Thompson, who owns the Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group, said forcing caregivers into product testing — which can cost thousands per harvest — only threatens the financial viability of the caregiver model. And with only 17 licensed safety labs statewide for all 30,000 caregivers and none in the Upper Peninsula, accessibility would be an issue, he said.

MRA Director Andrew Brisbo — in an interview with Four20 Post — explained that mandatory product testing for caregivers would also require a “significant increase for expected bandwidth” at safety compliance laboratories. He also said that shifting 30,000 caregivers into a new centralized tracking system similar to the licensed market would create logistical challenges.

He also emphasized that the state is not pursuing any changes to the caregiver program.

The Detroit-based law firm of Dykema Gossett advertises the MCMA as a “key client” on its website, noting its attorneys are responsible for representing the group in lobbying for new legislation. Dykema Gossett has also represented Lume Cannabis Co. since its inception.

This is also not the first time that corporate lobbyists have tried to meddle with state pot law. Another group of Lansing lobbyists pushed similar proposals in 2019 after forming the now-defunct Great Lakes Cannabis of Chamber of Commerce, attempting to rid the industry of caregivers who were “manipulating the medicine with harmful and dangerous additives.”

Jeff Radway, CEO of Skymint, also organized a rally at the Capitol lawn in 2019 amid another failed attempt to remove untested medical marijuana from the market. Those efforts stalled, but his message doesn’t appear to have changed: BigCanna simply can’t compete with affordable prices offered by caregivers — even if they only take up 2-5% of the statewide pot market.

An MCMA-commissioned economic study released from the Anderson Economic Group last week found that annual revenues for the state’s cannabis market are set to hit $3.2 billion. It also found that 70% of transactions still occur “off the books” and outside of licensed stores.

“There are major storm clouds on the horizon,” Linder said in a press release announcing the study. “The study shows that large quantities of untested, illicit cannabis continue to flood the market. This poses a significant threat to patient and consumer safety. The study makes clear Michigan can and should be a leader in cannabis safety, innovation and entrepreneurship.”

Brisbo said state revenue estimates for the marijuana market are still significantly lower than the study suggests — only about $1.4 billion for 2021. And while the volume of products sold is rising, prices are also rapidly falling. Brisbo reported a 46% price decrease over the last year, bringing the average recreational eighter to only $27 — down from about $50 last summer.

“As far as the share against the illicit market? We don’t have that data,” Brisbo said.

Here’s the list of cannabis businesses that do not want changes to the caregiver program:

420 Farm Assist

420 United Canna Care Center

710 Apothecary

710 Wellness

ABKO Labs, Inc

All Star Growers

Alvarez Cultivation

American Wrestling Experience

Americans for Safe Access- Michigan chapter

Ancient Extracts Company

Ann Arbor Monroe Street Fair

Apothecare Ann Arbor

Aronoff Law

Artemis Brands, incl. Dori Balm, Sundara, Blue Sage

B&B Botanicals

Baby E's BBQ

Bad Bunny Nutrients

BC Hemp Company

BDT's Pipe and Tobacco Shops

Best Damn Gummies

Big 3D Printing

Birch Run Wellness

Black and Brown Cannabis Guild

Black Cannabis Access

Black Market

Blooming Botanicals

Blue Sage Health Consulting

Bratic Enterprises

BRBuds Inc

Brown Hemp Company

Calyxeum

Canna Communication

Canna Consult You

Canna Social Equity Fund

Cannabis Counsel Law Firm

Cannabis Evangelists

CannaMiracles

Cannapalooza Worldwide

Cannarose Cannabis Company

CBD Store of Michigan

Celtic Cannabis

Centerfolds

Chamber of CannaBiz

Channel313TV

Chroniseur Grinder Grease

Cind3r Kitten Productions

Claires Gardens

Clone Queens of MI

Clone Star LLC

Concentrates Movement Apparel

Conservative Christians for Cannabis

Cosmic Knot

Country Roots Limited

Craft Hemp Company

Cropscout Christie Consulting

Cultivate MI Solutions

Custom 420 Promos LLC

D'Mirage

Darren McCarty Brand

Decriminalize Nature MI

Deep Roots Consulting

Deliciously Dope TV

Delta Farms

Delta Farms LLC

Depot Town Care Center/Ypsilanti

Detroit Dabs

Detroit Water Brigade

Discount Hydro

Divine Epicurean & Entertainment LLC

Doja

Easton Craft Cannabis

Elliott Ness Untouchable Rub

Etzchaim.biz

eXp Commercial

EZ Swap Pots

Facility Engineering

Farm Assist Wellness

Fee's Intense Training LLC

Four Sticks Management LLC

Franklin Fields

Freedom Green Farms

Fresh Coast Extracts

Funky Extracts

Gator Girl's Swamp

Gen Co Genetics

Genesee County Cannabis Guild

God's Herbal Garden of Healing

Great Lakes Holistic/Battle Creek

Great White Consulting

Green Care Provisioning

Green Cross of MI

Green Eden

Green Girl LLC

Green Harvest Farms

Green Harvest Farms

Green Medicine Shop

Green Pharm

Green Web Design

Greenhouse of Walled Lake

Greening Detroit/Greening Michigan

Griffin Secure Transport LLC

Grow Green MI

Harley Sherman, CPA

HashBash .com

Hashesta Craft Cannabis and Consulting

Healing Leaf Wellness Center

Helping Hand

Hemp for SPM

Hemp Helps Us LLC

Herbal Solutions

Herb & Legend

Herbnmeds and HMN Wellness Store

Hollywood Genetics

Holistic House

Hoolagantic Hippie Productions

Horseshoe Farms

House of Dank

Hydrate Detroit

Ice-THC

Iconic Wellness and Provisioning

IDJ Custom Twist

Integrity Cannabis

IOG Supply Hydro

Jazz Cabbage Café cannabis podcast

JC3

Jukebox Farms

Kejbou Insurance Agency

Knuckleheads Comedy

Lake Effect Group

LEACIF LLC

Leaf Medic

Liberty Meds

Light'N Up Provisioning Center

Lightsky Farms

Lincoln Social Podcast

Local Roots Cannabis

MG Royalty

MI 420 Events

Michigan Cannabis Business Development Group

Michigan Cannabis Chefs

Michigan Cannabis Events

Michigan Cannabis Freedom Coalition

Michigan CannaHouse

Michigan Democratic Party Cannabis Caucus

Michigan Edible Canna

Michigan Hemp Farmer's Association

Michigan Hemp King

Michigan Holistic Health

Michigan Mosaic Energy Cooperative

Michigan Organic Rub

Michigan Plants

Michigan Psychedelic Society

Michigan Veterans for Cannabis Network

Mid Michigan Hemp Supply

Mid Michigan Hemp Supply

Midnight Roots

Midwest Multi Media Management

M L Designs LLC

Mood Jackson

More Than Hope Consulting

Motor City NORML

MSC3

My Cannabis Nurse

Nature's Releaf

Nicely Toasted

Northern Light Cannabis Co

Northern Specialty Health/Houghton

Nuggie.Menu

Octopot

Ohio Green Cross

Om of Medicine/Ann Arbor

Once Bitten Twice Baked

Overgrow Consulting

Pinnacle Emporium

Pott Farms

Premier Meds

Premiere Hemp Company

Prent Entertainment

Pure Lapeer

Rair Cannabis

Rare Findings

Rare Michigan Genetics

Real Leaf Solutions

Red Eye Cannabis

Redemption Cannabis

Remedies Medicinals

Ryekana LLC

Screener's Landscape Supply

Seeds of Love

Sherwood THC

Shoreline MMP LLC

Shoreline MMP LLC

SkunkwerksRX

Smokers Alley Westland

Sparrow Consulting

Sticky Mittenz

Stone Depot

Sunset Coast Provisions

SWS Caregivers

Tang Farms

Tarantula Genetics LLC

Team Ag Solutions

Team Bertram Real Estate One

Terpene Science

The Blue Door Mi LLC

The Blue Room Indoor Garden Supply

The Botanical Co.

The Custom Grow Rooms

The Fire Station Wellness/Mt Morris

The Grassy Knoll

The Groove Shop/Detroit

The Helping Friendly Hemp Company

The House of Gardening

The Law Offices of Bruce Leach

The Nest Provisioning Supply

The Redemption Foundation

The Reef

The Safe Michigan Coalition

The Seed Cellar

The Spott Laboratory

The Sweet Leaf

The Thin Green Line

The Wellflower Big Rapids

The Wellflower Manistee

Therapeutic Horticulture Consultations

Thryv Lyfe

Time Wise Agency

Toledo Hemp Center LLC

Total Health Collective

Tree House Provisioning Center

True Healing Center

True Organics

Trustworthy Holistic Caregivers

Truu Cannabis

Tub Life Bath Co

Tumbleweed Battle Creek

UBaked

Universal Cannabis Technologies

Vehicle City Social

Veterans Liquid LLC

Vibe Inkster

Vigilante Entertainment Group

Vivid Farms

Well Rooted Real Estate

World 3 Judges

Zen Balancing

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