On Wednesday, November 8, Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) and its Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation (BMMR) kicked off the first of a series of six educational sessions on Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing. LARA’s staff presented information about the two online platforms that will be used to apply for facility licenses and to track and inventory cannabis plants and products once facilities are open for business. The session did not, however, address many of the substantive questions that arise out of Michigan’s new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (“MMFLA”).
The first half of the session included a step-by-step walk-through of Accela, the platform that applicants will use to apply online for facility licenses. LARA confirmed that applicants may submit a paper application instead of using Accela, if they prefer. The Accela presentation highlighted the platform’s functionality, but it did not provide any insight into how LARA plans to interpret key provisions of the MMFLA. For example, LARA did not address how the emergency rules to be issued later this month will interpret statutory disclosure requirements and ineligibility criteria for an applicant’s affiliates. LARA also did not reveal the contents of certain disclosure forms that applicants and their affiliates will be required to submit as part of the application. While many industry hopefuls were wishing for much-needed guidance, it appears that answers will be provided only when the State’s emergency rules are issued.
The second half of the session consisted of an overview of the statewide monitoring system, Metrc, that the state and industry members will use to track marihuana growth, processing, transportation, testing, and sales. The training touched on everything from how the cloud-hosted online system will track plants and products using Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) tags to how medical marihuana business owners will interface with the system, as well as how the state will use the system as a regulatory and compliance tool. Metrc staff reassured applicants that there will be more training and interactive support available to licensees who use the system once licenses have been issued.
Metrc will function mainly to log facilities’ employees and tasks, and to track marihuana inventory by location in each facility. Compliance investigators from the state will be able to scan an entire room of marihuana plants or products at once using an RFID scanner that reads an RFID tag attached to each plant or product. Licensees will use Metrc to assign a plant ID number and corresponding tag to each immature plant that will remain with the plant through its vegetative and flowering cycles. The system also facilitates harvest tracking in batches. During processing, licensees must assign package ID numbers to each product batch. Packages will be labeled with a new RFID tag. Metrc also facilitates transfers of plants and products between facilities; for example, a grower must assign its plants and their ID numbers to a secure transporter and then to the processor when transferring cannabis to a processing center. Each facility is responsible for the plants and packages corresponding to the ID numbers in its Metrc log, and compliance investigators will be able to compare inventory manifests in Metrc with plants and products physically present at each facility. Metrc aims to make regulatory compliance procedures efficient, but it also aims to provide value to facilities required to use the system.
Although Metrc was not created for the express purpose of managing or organizing businesses, facilities will receive some business management tools from the system. For example, facilities will be able to input information about marihuana strains, inventory items other than cannabis plants and marihuana products, and track weights and waste through the growing and processing stages. In its presentation, Metrc staff emphasized that enterprising facilities can use the system to analyze the regulatory data captured, to perform supply and demand forecasts based on moisture loss and waste data, and to calculate cost of goods sold. Information stored on Metrc will only be accessible on the industry side by the facility licensee and on the regulatory side by the state. The secure information will not be available to the general public.