Senate GOP leader backs Whitmer’s marijuana board

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    After lengthy discussion with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, state Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) is backing Whitmer’s executive order establishing a new marijuana regulatory board, spokeswoman Amber McCann said.

    On Friday, Whitmer created the Marijuana Regulatory Agency housed within the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), as the Advance reported. It will be in charge of the state’s laws for both medical and recreational marijuana. The order goes into effect on April 30.

    Mike Shirkey

    McCann said Whitmer and Shirkey discussed the order before its release “at length” and said the Republican leader “appreciates the governor’s willingness to discuss the issue beforehand.”

    One of Whitmer’s previous orders caused heartburn with Republicans. They quickly overturned her order last month reshuffling the Department of Environmental Quality and Whitmer worked with legislative leaders on a compromise afterward.

    State House Speaker Lee Chatfield (R-Levering) also “very much appreciates the governor reaching out ahead of time” and her willingness to work with the Legislature, said spokesman Gideon D’Assandro.

    “The speaker is going to let the [House Republican] caucus review it and share any thoughts before weighing in,” D’Assandro said.

    Whitmer’s order also scuttles the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation and the Michigan Marihuana Licensing Board (MMLB). The board will have two more meetings before it’s dissolved — one on March 21 and the last on April 25.

    Lee Chatfield

    Agendas are published 24 hours before, and are mostly made up of business application reviews, said David Harns, a spokesman for the Bureau of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA).

    At least one member of the licensing board says he thinks the decision is a major blow to public safety because it removes an extra layer of state scrutiny. His and four other positions will be abolished on April 30.

    “I think it’s terrible from the aspect of the impact on public safety,” said board member Don Bailey, a former State Police narcotics enforcer.

    Many in the medical marijuana industry, including patients who spoke out at prior licensing board meetings, view Bailey as anti-marijuana.

    But Bailey defended his scrutiny.

    “When the law was written, one of the concerns was illegal money,” Bailey said. “Criminals were gonna get involved in the business, and that’s why the extreme vetting and documents requirement was put into the law.

    “I think I brought a different perspective from my 37 years in law enforcement that I applied when reviewing applications,” Bailey said.

    Gretchen Whitmer | Ken Coleman

    Legislation creating the regulatory body passed the House in an 83-22 vote in 2016, which split Democrats.

    Part of the caucus supported the plan, including state Reps. LaTanya Garrett (D-Detroit), Winnie Brinks (D-Grand Rapids), Sherry Gay-Dagnogo (D-Detroit, Andy Schor (D-Lansing, Vanessa Guerra (D-Saginaw), Stephanie Chang (D-Detroit) and Jon Hoadley (D-Kalamazoo).

    A handful of House Republicans opposed the measure, although a majority backed it.

    The Senate OK’d it 25-12, with only GOP opposition.


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