Corporate medical marijuana growers took to the steps of the Lansing capitol building Wednesday, calling on Governor Gretchen Whitmer and officials to enforce the state’s marijuana laws and end the sale of untested caregiver marijuana.
“Enough is enough,” said Jeff Radway, CEO of Green Peak Innovations, over boos and jeers from caregivers and patients protesting nearby.
Michigan’s medical marijuana market is at a crossroads as regulators try to shift control away from caregivers and over to licensed businesses. Officials have been met by repeated legal challenges — and the divide in the industry played out in public Wednesday at noon on the capitol lawn.
As more than 100 employees of Green Peak and licensed grower High Life Farms gathered outside the Capitol Wednesday, they were confronted by about 20 protesters wearing shirts holding signs featuring Radway’s corporate photo alongside targeted messages including “greedy pig” and “Jeff Radway hates children & the elderly.”
Radway declined to comment about the posters.
Green Peak has invested $13 million to launch its medical marijuana grow operation near Lansing in January, but is still competing with untested marijuana grown by caregivers. Whitmer and the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs have allowed caregiver marijuana to continue to supply the regulated market this year as it officially launches. That practice was supposed to end April 1, but a barrage of lawsuits against the state drew a temporary restraining order from Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello and is still allowed to continue.
Borrello is expected to hand down his ruling on multiple lawsuits by the end of this week, which will decide how long unlicensed provisioning centers can continue to operate and when caregiver marijuana should be discontinued. Green Peak and High Life Farms attempted to become a party to one of the lawsuits — but Borrello did not allow it.
Green Peak has launched a full assault on the issue this week, buying full page ads in the Detroit Free Press, Detroit News and Lansing State Journal; buying eight billboards around Lansing; starting a website, micleancannabis.org, and launching a change.org petition.
During a speech interrupted by chants of “go home Jeff” and “Green Peak sucks,” Radway repeatedly advocated for clean, tested medical cannabis for patients.
“We believe medical marijuana should be clean and safe for the patients of Michigan. Beyond what we believe, we voted for it. This is the will of the people,” Radway said. “We are calling on the governor, the legislature, the regulators and Judge Borrello: do the right thing and enforce the laws of the state of Michigan.”
Radway said the intent of the law is to ensure the safety of products and patients — and cannabis on the market today is not clean and is unpredictable.
Though no illnesses have been reported to Michigan officials from consumption of untested marijuana, there have been significant recalls of caregiver marijuana this year for contamination from heavy metals, E. coli, mold and Salmonella.
State Reps. Jim Lilly, R-Park Township, and Jason Sheppard, R-Temperance, spoke at the rally in support of the regulated market, and of a bill the House recently supported to set a compliance deadline of June 1.
“It’s important for patients to get this. It’s also important for us as a state to have something that can be followed, that’s a law, so that people are getting consistent care,” Sheppard said. “It’s so important for us to continue the path forward; to allow this industry to grow and to make sure we’re being leaders in the nation on how we handle this.”
Patients and caregivers are critical of licensed growers, and claim that they aren’t manufacturing CBD and THC tinctures and oils that patients need.
Radway said data analytics indicate those products represent 1.5 percent of the market.
“We have started with flower, we have started with distillate; we’re launching edibles next month, we’re launching vape carts — we’re starting with the medicines the patients need most,” Radway said. “We’re one of many dozens licensed suppliers. GPI has never claimed we’re going to make every product. GM doesn’t make every car: there’s room in the market for Alfa, and Chrysler, and Ford. We are one of many suppliers, but we make 98 percent of the products that patients want.”
Some of the protesters Wednesday included witnesses who appeared in court last week to testify for a provisioning center, the Curing Corner, in their suit against the state. Among them was Jerry Millen, owner of the Greenhouse provisioning center in Walled Lake.
“This is a bogus rally; these are all paid employees. This is a phony complaint by them (Green Peak) because they’re not making money,” Millen said. “The state’s top grower is the only one coming forward — that says it all.”
Michigan Cannabis Industry Association staff were present Wednesday at the rally, but have not taken a side on the issue.
The Great Lakes Cannabis Chamber of Commerce is supportive of the licensed growers’ stance. The law was never written with the intent of allowing caregivers to supply the regulated market, said Matt Miner, executive director of the GLCCC.