Michigan Governor Rick Snyder shocked the state with his appointment of five members to the eagerly anticipated Medical Marijuana Board that will be in charge of enforcing the state’s licensing process under the Michigan Facilities and Licensing Act with the goal of bringing legitimacy of the growing medical marijuana industry within the state.
Prior to the announcement of the appointees, it was believed that two Republicans, two Democrats and one Independent would be placed on the board. This was far from what happened and the outcome has pleased some while frustrating others. The appointees include:
Nicole Cover of Mattawan: Cover will represent the Independents and has worked professionally as a licensed pharmacist and healthcare supervisor of Walgreens. Cover serves as chair of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy and previously served on the Board’s Controlled Substance and Advisory Commission. Cover’s term is set to expire December 31, 2018.
Vivian Pickard of Bloomfield Hills: The second Independent on the Board, Pickard is the former director of public policy for General Motors where she is now the President and CEO. Her term is set to expire December 31, 2020.
David LaMontaine of Monroe: The Republican is an executive board member for the Police Officers’ Association of Michigan and a Speaker of the House nominee. A veteran of the Marine Corps and a decorated law enforcement officer. His term is set to expire on Dec. 31, 2019.
Donald Bailey of Traverse City: Bailey has 36 years of law enforcement experience and is a former Michigan State Police sergeant. A Republican, his term is set to expire Dec. 31, 2020.
Rick Johnson of Leroy: The Senate majority leader, the Republican served as a state representative from 1998-2004 acting as speaker of the house his last four years in office. Johnson’s term is set to expire Dec. 31, 2019.
Legal experts in the field and members of the cannabis community provided their thoughts upon these nominations. To generate a true sampling of the feeling expressed by Governor Snyder’s selections, we asked several people in the marijuana and legal profession in the Ann Arbor area their thoughts. The commentary was somewhat surprising as it was spread across the spectrum.
Benjamin Norvan, a medical marijuana caregiver in the Ann Arbor area was visibly upset. When asked, Norvan stated, “There is no Democrat on the board. We have a bunch of staunch law enforcement professionals that are going to make it extremely difficult to obtain licensure.
Our dream of making recreational cannabis legal has just been destroyed and the medical aspect has been set back 10 years.”
In contradiction to Norvan, Kendrick Greenwood, a graduate student in Political Science shared his view: “It’s hard to believe Governor Snyder selecting a stronger group of individuals. The reality is that licensure is a serious topic and the appointees are serious people. We do not want another New Hampshire situation. I applaud our governor.”
Legal experts shared their views as well. Matthew McManus of McManus PLLC in Ann Arbor has become a leader in helping those in the cannabis industry evolve their business. When asked about the appointments, McManus said, “I have to admit, it’s a strong group that may upset some people but these are quality individuals. Our firm will not take every client that walks through the door. There are a lot of people in this business for the wrong reason. If you want to be a pot dealer, you will not exist much longer. If you want to be a business person you will have the potential to thrive. This board will help the businessperson succeed.”
Ravi Gurumurthy, an attorney in Cadillac, Michigan that has handled many criminal matters in Dexter stated, “The appointees consist of people that I have had professional dealings with and they are a respected group. There are a lot of lawyers making money giving bad advice in the industry and a lot of clients that are breaking the law without knowing it. This will change with the appointees that Governor Snyder placed on the board. I intend to bring my clients in to work with this group from the onset to fully cooperate and achieve their dreams.”
Scott Grabel of Grabel and Associates in Lansing, Michigan has developed a reputation as a top criminal defense firm throughout the state of Michigan. When asked, Grabel stated, “Ann Arbor will be impacted by the appointments the most. Whenever something that was illegal becomes legal to a degree the lawyer faces the challenges of evolving with the state constitution. I have an immense amount of respect for the members of the board and will certainly work hard to have my current and future clients understand how the cannabis industry is evolving.
Make no mistake about it, the game of “pot” is changing and while many feel that the appointments lean to the right of the political half-circle, there is no question that those that want to reap the benefits of the industry are going to have to become more educated in the pitfalls of it as well. For the state of Michigan and specifically the city of Ann Arbor, these represent amazing…and dangerous times ahead.
Bill Amadeo is a partner at the law firm of McManus PLLC in Ann Arbor, Michigan. In addition to his duties at the firm, he owns and operates BAT Tutoring in Lansing, Michigan and is a contributing writer for “We Love Ann Arbor” and “We Love Dexter”. He can be reached at: [email protected].
As for the legal pundits listed in the article, Scott Grabel can be reached at: https://www.grabellaw.com/. Ravi Gurumurthy can be reached at: http://michiganlawnorth.com/.
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