On multiple fronts, Michigan’s new attorney general is taking proactive steps to sort out the mayhem caused by rapidly changing statewide cannabis regulations and the lack of understanding behind them.
Since the implementation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act of 2008 and the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, or Act 281 of 2016, the state of Michigan faced numerous lawsuits from cannabis companies concerning licensing timelines that were allegedly impossible to meet. That led Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello to officially rebuke the Department of Licensing & Regulatory Affairs (LARA), calling it “ill-equipped” to issue licenses properly.
Under new leadership, efforts are being made to restore faith in the state’s cannabis licensing authorities. Attorney General Dana Nessel was sworn into office on Jan. 1, and is the first openly LGBTQ person elected to a statewide office in Michigan and the second openly LGBTQ person in the U.S. to be elected to state attorney general. On May 7, Nessel announced the formation of a cannabis legal workgroup to fall under the Michigan Department of Attorney General. Nessel herself will chair the group, and they will meet regularly to review, analyze and discuss the complex laws and regulations that govern the recreational and medical cannabis industries in Michigan.
“We are working hard now to avoid the years of uncertainty, lawsuits and appeals that followed the enactment of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act in 2008.”
The purpose of the workgroup is to promote fair, equal and appropriate implementation of cannabis law, as well as clarification and improvements when necessary. Kelly Rossman-McKinney, communications manager for Attorney General Dana Nessel, confirmed the new group and provided CULTURE with a statement. “We are working hard now to avoid the years of uncertainty, lawsuits and appeals that followed the enactment of Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act in 2008,” stated Nessel. “With new laws and regulations on the books, particularly concerning recreational marijuana, I am confident this diverse group collectively has the knowledge, experience and thus credibility to make recommendations that will be accepted and implemented by all involved.”
The initial round of members has already been selected, and the workgroup includes the following members:
- Robert Baldori, attorney at law
- Paul Bernier, city attorney, City of Livonia
- Andrew Brisbo, executive director, Marijuana Regulatory Agency
- Margeaux Bruner, M.S., CSM, political director, Michigan Cannabis Industry Association; member, Impaired Driving Safety Commission
- Robyn B. Frankel, assistant attorney general
- James R. Giddings, former circuit judge, 30th Judicial Circuit Court
- Daniel W. Grow, member, State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section
- D/F/Lt. Chris Hawkins, Michigan State Police, Marijuana and Tobacco Investigation Section
- Robert A. Hendricks, chairperson, State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section
- Dale (DJ) Hilson, president, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, prosecutor, Muskegon County
- Barton W. Morris, Jr., attorney at law
- John S. Pallas, assistant attorney general
- Jonathan Sacks, director, State Appellate Defender Office
- Adam Sandoval, deputy director, LARA
- Kenneth Stecker, Prosecuting Attorneys Association of Michigan, traffic safety resource prosecutor
The attorney general has also supported federal cannabis bills that would help legitimize the cannabis industry on a national scale. Nessel joined 28 other attorneys general to support the Secure And Fair Enforcement (SAFE) Banking Act (H.R. 1595), which would grant cannabis companies access to banking services.
Nessel’s workgroup will make recommendations to LARA, as well as police, lawmakers and prosecutors regarding the legal framework of the state’s cannabis industry. The workgroup’s first meeting took place in April, and more regular meetings will follow shortly.