Below are some of Rick’s more memorable media quotes from the year 2017. Whenever possible, a brief citation from the original article is included for context.
Walmart slayings highlight problem with medical marijuana law, advocate says
Rick Thompson is on the board of directors for the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and has been a part of numerous efforts to legalize marijuana in Michigan.
“Incidents like this are few and far in between, but that’s what happens when the legislature leaves this industry unregulated for eight years,” he said.
The Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act just went into effect in Michigan on Dec. 20, Thompson said, as a part of three bills approved in Michigan in 2016.
There will be laws and regulations set through the state to come up with a new application process for licensed dispensaries by the end of 2017, according to Thompson.
First 2017 Marijuana Bill Introduced in U.S. Congress
January 13, 2017
Pair slain outside Walmart broke medical pot rules, police say
“The legal interpretation is that a caregiver can transfer [medical marijuana] to up to five patients whom they are connected through the registry database,” said Rick Thompson, who is a member of the board of directors for the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws and has been a part of numerous efforts to legalize marijuana in Michigan.
How a marijuana ordinance will affect neighborhoods
Rick Thompson, a 51-year-old registered patient from Flint, said he believes Lansing’s residential medical marijuana ordinance is the first of its kind in Michigan. Thompson serves on boards for MI Legalize and MI NORML (National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws). He doesn’t see widespread problems throughout state involving caregivers growing marijuana in their homes.
Most caregivers, Thompson said, have the necessary equipment needed like carbon filters to eliminate odors or proper lighting to prevent fires.
“The fact is there really haven’t been many bad actors at all,” Thompson said.
Poll shows support for legalizing recreational marijuana in Michigan
Feb. 10, 2017
Rick Thompson, a member of the board of directors of both MINORML and MI Legalize, calls the 4 percent increase a spike and said it “has to be credited in part to the work of MI Legalize and the extensive public relations associated with the campaign.”
New Michigan Marijuana Legalization Proposal Language Available
Feb 24 2017
Medical pot laws ignite Lansing feeding frenzy
Rick Thompson, a medical marijuana advocate and board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said he was disgusted by the process that culminated in approval of a five-bill package in September.
“One of the positives of the Trump administration is his ban on going immediately from government to lobbying and that’s something Michigan should emulate. Influence peddling is such a deep-rooted part of our legislative process that it’s difficult to remove from the Capitol,” Thompson said.
Detroit’s medical marijuana market in upheaval after new rules
“We have an industry whose engine is revving and we’re just waiting for a green light so we can squeal our tires and take off,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of NORML and author of the Compassion Chronicles blog.
Consequently, zoning variances are in high demand among license applicants, many of whom have been selling MMJ in Detroit for years. But the city has been “dragging its feet” on MMJ business licensing in general, in part because there hasn’t been much clarity from the state on what it intends to do, Thompson said.
State not leading the way
Delays at the state level seem to start with Gov. Rick Snyder, and that apparently doesn’t bode well for the MMJ market.
“The governor has to appoint an administrative rules panel, and he missed his deadline for that,” Thompson said. “He said he’s taking extra time to vet the people he’s going to put on the committee.
“That is not a good sign for the implementation of the program, since everything is predicated on that first step. You can’t get your licenses until the administrative rules are done, you can’t do the rules until the board is (appointed), so it looks like this might be a longer process than we originally hoped.”
Right now, state MMJ business applications are slated to be available in December, Thompson and Abel said. That means state licenses likely won’t be issued until sometime in the first quarter of 2018. But even that timetable may end up being pushed back, a move that could have a direct impact on how Detroit’s MMJ industry evolves.
June 26, 2017
Marijuana licensing board members must disclose their finances – but what will be public?
Rick Thompson, a medical marijuana advocate and board member of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws, said anyone appointed to the board or nominated by the governor or legislative leaders “should be required to disclosed their income sources.”
Thompson said that “in Lansing’s political arena, influence is wielded by shadowy groups and our record for transparency in government is abysmal.”
Though some personal information protections should be in place, “greater disclosure by appointed officials will minimize the controversy in their decisions and increase citizen confidence in their work,” he said.
Testimony delivered to the Board on June 27
Not for stoners, this marijuana conference is all about joining a growing industry
“Take a look at some of the Republicans who are sponsoring legislation now” involving marijuana, “and these are people who were viciously opposed to us just a few years ago,” said Thompson, an online marijuana journalist turned business consultant.
Asked about critics’ contention that key marijuana activists have a hidden profit motive and that small growers soon will be squeezed out by mega investors, Thompson e-mailed a statement: “It’s impossible to launch a billion-dollar industry in 2017 America without corporate influence. Marijuana law reform activists are guiding the creation of our industry in a way that respects the participants and delivers benefit to the communities they live in.”
Where things stand now, and the changes coming for marijuana in Michigan
And a marijuana facilities licensing law signed by Governor Rick Snyder is set to go into effect this December. Rick Thompson serves on the boards of MI Legalize and Michigan NORML. He says the roll-out of the medical marijuana Facilities Licensing Act will basically “reinvent” the medical marijuana pipeline in Michigan.
“There’s been a robust industry already existing in the state since 2009, when the first program rolled out,” Thompson said.
Thompson says in December, a state board will begin licensing applicants for new distribution and testing centers, and other aspects of the medical marijuana industry, like transportation.
According to Thompson, there’s concern that existing medical marijuana business operators will be left out of the new program because of statements from licensing board members concerned that existing business operators won’t follow state guidelines.
As far as the petition drive to legalize recreational marijuana in Michigan, the Board of State Canvassers approved the form of the petition to legalize marijuana for recreational use on Thursday.
“We believe that the public sentiment is in our favor,” Thompson said. “All the polling data indicates that the citizenry of Michigan is ready for legalized Marijuana. They’re ready for the revenue stream. They’re ready to redirect their police forces towards more violent crime and towards more appropriate places.”
Thompson also said he thinks any further efforts by U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions to crack down on legalized marijuana use at the state level won’t be successful.
Listen to the entire conversation with Rick Thompson, above.
Big money will be made when Michigan’s medical marijuana industry goes legit — but who will make it?
In Michigan, dispensaries have been getting most of the attention in the battle over who will make the money in the state’s new medical marijuana distribution system. Communities are fighting over whether to allow them, and if so, how many. The Michigan retail marijuana market — particularly if recreational use passes — is projected to be huge. But it’s already big enough to have forced the hand of state legislators who were very reluctant to see any kind of legal distribution system.
“The retail market is the single largest revenue gatherer in the cannabis industry,” says Rick Thompson founder of Michigan Cannabis Business Development Conferences, which conducts business conferences across the state. “No other business represents the potential income like retails.”
In addition to retail, the marijuana market is vast — reaching into medical care, law, real estate, building, cuisine, communications, politics, etc. But it all is driven by the patients who walk in the door and put their money down.
How that happens will be known when the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board rolls out its rules Dec. 15. This is when we get to see how the money is going to be made. The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act sets up five different classes of business: grower, processor, safety compliance facility, secure transporter, and provisioning center. Each requires a different state license.
Provisioning centers (dispensaries) are what we have been seeing and what Detroiters have been fighting about — and what hasn’t been allowed in Oakland County. But all these other categories are mostly new in the public eye.
The law sets up three different classes of growers. That seems pretty straightforward. Class A allows up to 500 plants, Class B 1,000 plants, and Class C 1,500 plants. Those numbers seem pretty modest in the face of claims of Big Marijuana coming to town. It looks like mom and pop shops in a cottage industry. But the new rules could go in another direction, particularly if a practice known as “stacking” is allowed. Stacking is a practice wherein one entity could hold a number of licenses. One grower or investment group could potentially hold licenses to grow any number of plants — 10,000, 20,000 — who knows. One company could hold licenses for a chain of storefronts.
“The idea was received well by Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, so I expect they will allow stacking to some degree,” says Thompson, who is a board member for Michigan NORML.
The importance of that will depend on how many licenses the state is handing out and how many licenses one entity can have.
One seemingly sensible rule came out last week when the state Licensing and Regulatory Affairs office announced that so-called “all in one” facilities will be allowed where growing, processing, and sales can take place in the same building. Although it seems like a sane policy, it gets a little weird with having separate entrances for different licenses and you still have to provide secure transport from the part of the building that houses the growing to the part of the building that houses the processing.
There is some fear around the rules and licensing procedure among owners of existing dispensaries. Will those owners be penalized for running what many define as an illegal enterprise? Will they be cut out of the opportunity when licenses are handed out? At the very least it looks like places that are now open probably need to shut down by Dec. 1. This gives patients some planning time if they need to stock up on supplies or get a caregiver to tide them over until the marijuana system is up and running — although some places have already closed their doors in an effort to curry favor with LARA.
And then there are the folks who already know what the rules of their businesses are, they just need the new regulations to be set so that the wheels can start turning at the core of the marijuana industry.
There are the businesses that support the industry, such as real estate. Anybody with a big, empty warehouse might be thinking of renting to a marijuana grower. Of course that leads to work for electrical contractors and carpenters. Then you got the legal profession (which has been making money because of marijuana forever), the public relations companies, and I’m even hearing about insurance companies and bankers developing products to help get around federal rules. Oh, and there are security systems and building design. It’s endless. I know somebody in Colorado who is leading newcomers to marijuana in various personal discovery events.
“All of the secondary businesses, those folks are eager, they are excited, they have their money ready,” says Thompson. “Those folks don’t need administrative rules from LARA to know how they can play.”
Measures that could grow Detroit’s medical marijuana industry go to voters
The two ballot measures would bring some stability and expansion to the Detroit market but wouldn’t give it nearly as much breadth as it had just a few years ago, indicated local activist Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan chapter of NORML and author of the Compassion Chronicles blog.
“This is not a game-changer for anyone other than a few businesspeople who had real estate options in questionable locations, and who may find it easier to get involved in the application process,” Thompson said. “What these two ordinances don’t do is change the outlook or city vision of Detroit’s council or planning and zoning commission, who had in their mind a fixed number of (dispensaries).”
City officials have indicated they want only roughly 50 operational dispensaries, Thompson noted, down from the over 200 that were operating without licenses in 2015.
Zielinski said she could see the city becoming home to 100 or more cannabis businesses, but she emphasized that number includes all five license types enumerated under state law – dispensaries, cultivators, processors, testing labs and transporters. And that estimate is by no means definitive, she noted.
Thompson added that while the ordinances certainly are a “positive move,” he doesn’t see them helping the city’s MJ industry flourish.
“I don’t expect that these two ordinances will create a lot of new businesses,” Thompson said, “but they’ll create opportunities in neighborhoods that would have been denied opportunities for economic benefit in the past.”
Local vs. state
Detroit’s MMJ industry rules must also be reconciled with impending state regulations, he noted.
“There’s been some discussion about some zoning restrictions being put into new statewide regulations, and if the city of Detroit’s zoning restrictions conflict with the state’s, that could create problems for locally licensed but not state-approved (businesses),” Thompson said.
The Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs is scheduled to adopt regulations in November, and the agency’s Medical Marihuana Licensing Board is to begin accepting state license applications Dec. 15.
It’s unclear if locally licensed MJ businesses – such as Detroit’s eight dispensaries – will be required to shut down at that point until they receive state licenses.
But Thompson said that the owner of one of those eight has so far refused to sell medical cannabis because he doesn’t want to jeopardize his chances of obtaining a state MMJ license – illustrating the degree of uncertainty Michigan MMJ businesses are operating under.
“You’d think that one of those eight would just be rubbing his hands with glee, looking at all the big piles of cash he’s about to make, and he says, ‘Nope, we’re not even going to open until we get (a license) from the state,’” Thompson said.
During public comment, citizens opposed the proposed capitalization limits.
Rick Thompson questioned why a medical marijuana dispensary would need $300,000 to start up when the capitalization required for a liquor store was $50,000, and wondered who did the calculation that marijuana would be six times as costly.
The board did not answer questions during public comment, but urged people to check back to its website for updates.
“There’s a very famous quote that says you can make the law and I’ll make the rules and I’ll win every time. And I can’t recall who said that quote, but it’s never been more true than in this circumstance,” said Rick Thompson, a medical marijuana advocate.
There are medical marijuana patients and business owners who would like to know more about Johnson’s financial interests. Rick Thompson, of Flint, has been a long-time medical marijuana advocate and he’s written about medical marijuana policy in the state since 2009. He said Johnson’s appointment to the licensing board raised even more suspicion of large businesses’ influence in the medical marijuana rulemaking process.
“In the medical marijuana community, we’re very concerned about the involvement of lobbyists,” Thompson explained, adding that someone on the board could shift policy to favor a certain business in ways that aren’t obvious.
And marijuana activist Rick Thompson said having a few large growers in the state could be devastating for the medicinal marijuana market.
“Confining the licenses to facilities with thousands of plants creates the opportunity for catastrophic failure,” he said, noting an infestation could destroy an entire crop. “And what about a power failure, or the unexpected cold snaps that could kill a large operation, or a failure at a business level could interrupt the flow of medicine to our population?”
Some members of the Board, however questioned those lofty capitalization demands. David LaMontaine worried that the required capital would shut down many existing businesses and Rick Thompson wondered why a dispensary would need $300,000 to start-up when the capitalization required for a liquor store was $50,000.
Rick Thompson, a board member of MI NORML and the MI Legalize committee that is assisting in the petition drive, said uncertainty over federal enforcement has also “dampened” fundraising efforts.
Marijuana remains illegal under federal law. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions has hinted at a potential crackdown that would reverse a hands-off policy adopted under former President Barack Obama’s administration.
“Some people are really holding their breath waiting for the best opportunity to get into the industry, and as long as Jeff Sessions continues to disrespect the marijuana industry, some folks are going to keep their money in their pockets,” said Thompson, owner of the Michigan Cannabis Business Development group.
Still, Thompson predicted success for the ballot issue.
“The fact is we’ve got a huge base of support among activists and medical marijuana patients, as well as a national base of support from other players who want Michigan to be successful,” he said.
Copy of testimony delivered to the House on Nov. 7
“We only have the edge pieces to this jigsaw puzzle. So it’s hard to see the complete picture yet,” said Rick Thompson, a board member of the Michigan NORML chapter and author of the Compassion Chronicles blog.
“Although they create a framework for applicants to apply to the state, it’s clear that these emergency regulations are not the fully fleshed-out program we had hoped to have by Dec. 15.”
Cannabis experts: leaked state medical marijuana guidelines are ‘comprehensive’
A leaked draft of state guidelines for operations in the Michigan Medical Marijuana industry shown at a cannabis conference in Lansing Sunday is comprehensive, cannabis experts said.
Applications for medical marijuana operations licenses in Michigan go live on Dec. 15. The state said it would post guidelines for licensing at the end of last week, but the information is missing from the website as of Sunday.
Rick Thompson, owner of Michigan Cannabis Business Development (MICBD) and organizer of Sunday’s cannabis conference, said he and multiple others received leaked copies of the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ (LARA) highly-anticipated emergency administrative medical marijuana guidelines from third parties.
“There are lobbyists and attorneys in Lansing that have this document already that have been reviewing it with their clients, reviewing it with their staffs to provide feedback to [LARA],” Thompson said. “It’s our goal to provide that same level of feedback.”
Thompson and cannabis industry attorney Paula Givens did not distribute copies of the document at the MICBD conference, but said they shared information they felt would help entrepreneurs with their licensing applications.
“These [guidelines] are not final,” Thompson said. “They are not for sure, but we’re going to give you what information we have readily available. That’s what we did today.”