January 3, 2022
Rick Thompson, executive director of NORML of Michigan predicts more movement at local levels to open up communities for cannabis businesses.Five Takeaways About Illinois Cannabis Dispensaries From BioTrack Data
“Out of 1,700 municipalities in Michigan, less than 140 have said yes to either medical or adult-use cannabis businesses,” Thompson pointed out. “Now, the business interests will line up to influence cities and townships to open their streets to the cannabis industry. Money talks, and big cannabis businesses have the money to make things happen and a powerful need to open new retail stores. Also, expect to see an increase in lawsuits against those cities, whenever big money is denied a license.”
Port Huron and Ypsilanti are already wrestling with court cases over their local licensing processes.
As more legal cannabis is produced in Michigan, cannabis company values will drop, Thompson also predicts.
“Michigan tripled the number of cannabis plants under cultivation in the regulated market in approximately seven months during 2021. The number of new retail stores coming online is not keeping pace with the influx of greenhouse and indoor cannabis, creating a market that’s obviously trending toward an oversupply problem.”
Mergers and acquisitions will be big in 2022, he predicts.
“Skymint just bought 3Fifteen; that brings them up to 27 retail outlets in the state. Neither Gage nor Cookies has expanded as quickly as industry observers predicted, but that can change in 2022. Multi-state operators like to buy chains of cannabis retail outlets, not just a single store,” said Thompson, a prediction not far from what CEOs of AYR Wellness and PharmaCann told Grown In last year.
2022 resolution: Stop caring so much about THC content in your weed
So, how do you pick the best weed? Rick Thompson, the executive director of NORML of Michigan, described the decision of how to choose the right strain as a “sensory experience.”
“You have to smell it and see it prior to purchase in order for you to accurately gauge the amount of terpene content the cannabis has. THC doesn’t make cannabis smell good. The ensemble chemicals do,” he said. “If the cannabis you’re considering for purchase looks identical to four other cannabis samples, all of which carry no recognizable scent, find out which manufacturer crafted that cannabis and never buy from that company ever. The nose knows.”
Thompson suggests that customers do some research on various cannabis terpenes to determine which of them carry their desired effects — whether that be to produce a cerebral, energetic and uplifting kick in the morning or a sleepier, pain-relieving body buzz at night.
Roy Liskey, an owner of Local Roots Cannabis Co. in Laingsburg, said he constantly tries to steer his customers away toward finding a dominant terpene in any given strain that works for them. Still, a lot of his customers tend to avoid strains that test below 20%. And they’re missing out.
“If the terpene information is unavailable, you may have to go old school,” he said. “Inspect the smell jar, and if the buds are visibly coated with trichomes and it smells pungent, it’s probably great cannabis. Decide which terpenes are your favorite, or maybe more importantly, which terpenes don’t agree with your body. Everyone’s endocannabinoid systems are different.”
Thompson added: “Unfortunately, many regulated cannabis companies prepackage their cannabis and there is no opportunity for you to use your senses. At that point, one must rely on the company’s reputation and the recommendation of your friends to determine what to buy.”
“A test result is a lie,” says Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML. “When someone says it’s tested, it’s a lie. It’s a misleading statement. Just because it passed testing at one point in its life cycle, doesn’t mean it still would pass testing later.”
Ultimately, Thompson says, testing is just a cover for big cannabis companies who are trying to scare consumers away from the underground market.
“Part of the problem for the regulated market is they paid so much for capital and infrastructure and C-suite executives from other industries, they can’t make their stuff competitive,” charges Thompson, who says the underground market will never go away. Regulators and legal cannabis companies should just get used to that idea.
“Coexist. That’s the important phrase here.”
A series of product recalls and warnings in the cannabis sector last year and other instances created a level of liability that was not originally foreseen when regulations were laid out, Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML says.
“In one instance joints were rolled using human saliva then offered for sale,” Thompson told Grown In. “Beyond the yuck factor, during a pandemic this creates a level of liability not originally foreseen when our regulations were laid down. It may be true that companies purchased a minimal liability policy, and that was seen by the MRA as inadequate to satisfy the litigious lusts of our lawsuit-crazed legal community. Legal action in other states has exposed many different ways in which product liability can disrupt companies. This seems to be a case of watch, learn, and adapt on the part of state regulators.”
Corporatization, power struggles and a historic recall: Michigan marijuana’s 2021 growing pains
Rick Thompson, a legalization pioneer and the president of the state chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML) said consolidation within the marijuana industry nationally has been taking place for several years. He’s not a fan and worries that it creates vulnerability with less competition.
“But here in Michigan, it’s just now started to take place,” Thompson said. That’s because Michigan, unlike other states, has an uncapped license system. Each community creates its own licensing allotment and structure. Thompson said big corporations prefer the stability in states, like Illinois, where there are fixed numbers of licenses regulated at the state level.
Thomson, the director of NORML in Michigan, points to the recent massive recall that touched nearly every retail location in Michigan, as an example of why corporate consolidation within the industry is troubling.
Promise and reality of recreational cannabis
Rick Thompson, executive director of NORML Michigan, a non-profit public interest advocacy group representing the interests of those who consume marijuana responsibly, said, “We were interested in stopping people from being arrested. All of the tax revenue and stopping the black market weren’t really big factors for us.”
Now that the legislation has been enacted, “Michigan is really an excellent model. There is permissive growing and opportunities for ‘mom and pops’ to get started,” Thompson said.
Norml also likes that municipalities have been co-opted for involvement. “It’s important for buy-ins,” Thompson said. “If they’re forced to have them, it wouldn’t work.”
Stephen Linder, executive director of the Michigan Cannabis Manufacturer’s Association, said one of the key components in writing and passing the legislation was for cities, townships and villages, “We didn’t want to force it on them. We built in an opt-in so municipalities could opt-in, at the time for medical marijuana, for what kind of licensing they wanted and for how many licenses. There are no caps for the number of licenses by the state. That law passed, but it did not eliminate the caregivers, because for people there was a genuine concern that the recreational market – which is now a $3 billion industry – that people would want to buy from the commercial side of the market. Caregivers don’t have to report where they are located, nor do they have to test their product.
“Fast forward, the regulated market, the one that has to buy the licenses, do the build-outs, pass inspections and test product – they’re the ones creating all the jobs and providing all the revenue, all the tax revenue and are competing against the people who do none of those.”
Like others involved with getting the recreational market up and going, Thompson and his colleagues looked at other states who had walked the walk before them, such as California, Oregon, Washington and Colorado.
“Here we see the American dream being realized every day,” Thompson said.
Asked whether the legislation has been an empty promise or a golden ticket, Mains said, “It’s somewhere in between. In terms of the revenues and the black market, it’s still too early to tell. The market isn’t mature yet.”
For many others, their golden ticket is already being claimed, and faster than expected, with purchasers clamoring for products.
However, Thompson does have concerns that the natural evolution of the market is that “small businesses will get gobbled up. We like to think of cannabis as being unique, but it’s true as in any other business.”
Rick Thompson of NORML Michigan thinks the downward spiral of cannabis pricing has made companies less profitable, so they could be more likely to sell out, “similar to what can happen in any other industry. The cost of financing is a big deal, and some market forces can force you into a sale mode. But there are a lot of successes in mom-and-pops opening two, three, four franchises. But that is more attractive to a California company who wants to buy a bunch of franchises so they can get their name in the marketplace rather than creeping into the marketplace,” Thompson said.
“The giant stain on the Michigan cannabis program is remediation because it can hide bad gardening processing and remediation can hide cannabis that has failed testing,” pointed out Thompson of NORML MI. “As a consumer advocate first, consumers do not want cannabis that has been X-rayed or sprayed to kill the creepy crawlies to make it palatable.
“Our system allows remediation at multiple points in the cannabis lifecycle because it’s financially devastating if your cannabis fails and you have to throw it all away,” he said. “Remediation is a way for businessmen to save their losses.”
Michigan mulls allowing conversion of CBD oil to THC, triggering fears of depressed product prices
One person’s pricing crisis could be another’s bonanza, points out Michigan NORML executive director Rick Thompson.
“Our market is in its infancy. Our price structure is in a race to the bottom. We’re at $187 an ounce [for wholesale flower], according to the MRA right now. That is a difficult to sustain business model when you’re doing that wholesale. When you introduce a cheaper price the only companies that could sustain that are MSOs, who can offset their losses in Michigan with profits somewhere else,” said Thompson.
One consistent concern among testifiers Wednesday was that the rules would allow processors to purchase hemp produced out of state.
Nick Young, an owner of a Michigan hemp and cannabis extraction business asked MRA to limit sourcing to Michigan growers only.
“I would love to see something in there promoting Michigan hemp growers. There are a lot of hemp growers still sitting on 2019, 2020, and now 2021 crop,” he said.
NORML Michigan’s Thompson agreed.
“Michigan’s regulatory scheme is very different from that seen in other states. If you can grow hemp at half the price in Kentucky than Michigan, then Michigan growers don’t stand a chance,” he said.
In addition, accepting hemp grown out of state would complicate law enforcement, testified Thompson in his written statement submitted to MRA.
“A cop on the roadside cannot tell the difference between a truck loaded with compliant hemp from Kentucky from a truck loaded with dank stalks of the good stuff from Cali,” wrote Thompson.
Marijuana organization pushes for more safety enforcement to stop illicit weed in Michigan market
Rick Thompson, a legalization pioneer and the president of the state chapter of National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), is a critic of the MCMA lobbying efforts and called its use of the MRA depositions to push its legislative agenda an “act of desperation.”
“The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association has spent a lot of money lobbying the Legislature for this Cannabis Safety Act,” he said. “They were unsuccessful last year and as we ramp up toward an election season, this is their last grasp at that brass ring, the last opportunity for them to push this legislation through before it all gets very muddy in Lansing.
“There is no call within the marijuana industry for the MRA to have greater enforcement powers, so this is a unique request.”
Should Michigan marijuana businesses disclose ‘kill step’ to customers?
“We talk about remediation all the time,” said Rick Thompson, president of the Michigan Chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML.) “One of the things we push on is having a label: ‘remediation.’
“Some of the things that have been said in the past … is we need to prove that it’s scientifically damaging, that there’s some sort of health consequence or there’s a real need for us to label remediation,” said Thompson, who sits on a consumer advisory board created by the MRA. “But I don’t think that’s necessary anymore.”
The MRA “has established a precedent that they’re willing to inform people when there’s a consumer awareness issue,” Thompson said. “We expect that this remediation thing should be take care of fairly quickly.
“Establish a notification system so that we’re not dependent on the word of a budtender in order to tell us whether this product was remediated.”
Attorney General Nessel to speak at 50th anniversary Ann Arbor Hash Bash
The speakers lineup includes Sinclair; Michigan House Reps. Yousef Rabhi, Alex Garza and Cynthia Johnson; Mr. Hash Bash, Adam Brook; Washtenaw County Prosecutor Eli Savitt; Executive Director of the Michigan Cannabis Industry Association, Robin Schneider; National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws Michigan’s Executive Director, Rick Thompson; leaders of the Decriminalize Nature Michigan organization; Students for Sensible Drug Policy’s Matthew Dargay; and attorneys Matthew Abel and Michael Komorn.
Michigan’s added cannabis testing capacity, but CEOs say there is far more to do
Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML, alleges that the state is having a crisis of trust in the testing industry as a result of the recalls. However, he is still confident that testing is headed in the right direction as it has doubled the number of facilities in the past year to help smaller cultivators and testing personnel make shorter trips to smaller cities, as the testing labs were originally exclusively in large metro areas.
“Being first in the Midwest to step into the industry, we had to learn a lot about what works but we got a good head start compared to others,” Thompson said. “It was a real hardship for a cultivator to drive hundreds of miles to the facilities, oftentimes going out more than 400 miles to and from places. The state is doing everything it can to ensure testing is efficient and safe for everyone.”
First Marijuana drive up window hits Lansing at Bazonzoes
Drive-thru pick up will begin promptly at 10am with ‘Grand Marshall’ Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML, author, and brand ambassador for Redemption Cannabis picking up the first order.
Michigan cannabis company rolls out Lansing’s first drive-through dispensary
Rick Thompson is the Executive Director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws of Michigan and the owner of Michigan Cannabis Business Development Programs. Thompson was one of the first to use the drive-through and attended the grand opening.
“I look at drive-through as a symbol of the normalization of cannabis and cannabis retail use within the city of Lansing and the surrounding areas,” he said, “when we start to look like other businesses people forget that we used to be illegal and they start treating us like other businesses.”
Thompson said drive-throughs also help consumers who may be hesitant to try cannabis, or who prefer privacy. The convenience of staying in a vehicle, he adds, is also important for people with disabilities.
“This just moves us forward, moves us a little bit closer to the ideal circumstance where cannabis retailers are almost invisible,” he said.
Michigan cannabis sales are up from last year, but many predict the state’s growing supply could spoil the fun
Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML, believes his state’s market has become a “Wild West”, due to a lack of regulation on licenses as well as problems with testing regulation, which could bring a reckoning to the state’s industry, especially on smaller operations.
“The amount of plants far exceeds what we can buy,” Thompson says. “We need to enact some sort of license control because there is no way most people can stay around.”
Thompson believes testing issues, despite areas of improvements, are a significant issue which has shaken faith in the regulated market as well. He cites a new report on testing company Viridis regarding THC testing potency. The actions of Viridis could lead to more recalls costing the state’s industry millions of dollars, posits Thompson.
Will There be More Closures After Michigan’s Biggest Weed Company Shuts Down Four Stores?
Since Lume closed for lack of profit, does that mean Michigan’s marijuana sales are tanking?
Rick Thompson, who is the director of the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), believes there will be more closures and mergers since prices are falling but competition is increasing.
Major Michigan marijuana retailer shutters four stores
Michigan marijuana advocate and industry analyst Rick Thompson, the Michigan branch director of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), predicts an increased number of closures, mergers and acquisitions as big investors see their profit margins shrink due to falling prices and increased competition.
Thompson expects some deep-pocketed, out-of-state marijuana companies will eventually buy out some of Michigan’s largest existing chains, a trend that is already taking place in other legalized marijuana markets across the nation.
Where to look for dispensary closings
Rick Thompson, executive director of Michigan NORML, says this is the shakeout he’s been waiting for. Just like Colorado, just like Oregon.
“There’s optimism for growth in the system itself. But it’s difficult for people to make ends meet right now. Ultimately I think we’ll see a new set of faces. We won’t see many of the people who pioneered the market,” he said. “People are still going to buy cannabis, it doesn’t matter who owns the retail stores, they will still stand. The first wave of people who got gigantic loans, they weren’t realistic.”
Why is Andrew Brisbo leaving his great Michigan regulatory job?
“He had a sense of compassion that seems lacking in most government officials,” said Rick Thompson, who heads up Michigan NORML.
Rick Thompson, at NORML, is concerned Whitmer will reach into law enforcement to fill the job.
“The real push has been to increase enforcement, that’s what makes us think there will be a law enforcement person. That would have a chilling impact on the entire cannabis industry in Michigan,” Thompson said.
Andrew Brisbo Leaving CRA: Rick Thompson Provides Analysis
ANN ARBOR – Earlier this month, Gov. Whitmer’s office announced that Cannabis Regulatory Agency Director Andrew Brisbo was taking a new position at Michigan LARA as Director Of Construction Codes. The surprise move is analyzed by Rick Thompson, Executive Director of Michigan NORML, the pro-cannabis lobbying group.
New Michigan law bans fake urine to pass drug tests
Rick Thompson, executive director for the cannabis advocacy group NORML of Michigan, said in a written statement to MLive that people should be judged by the quality of their job performance, “not the content of their bloodstream.”
“Correlation is not causality; the presence of cannabinoids in one’s body should never be assumed to be an indicator of their reliability, performance or danger level they present to employers,” he wrote. “When lawmakers use 1950′s fearmongering to justify attacks on the common people in 2022′s Michigan, it shows how little they understand about how cannabis affects the human body- and how widespread its use is in society.”
Michael Thompson to Bring Families of the Incarcerated Together in Flint
The buildup to Thompson’s release was a national story and received the attention of international stars. The Michael Thompson Clemency Project’s Advisory Board of Directors feature names like Rick Thompson of Michigan NORML, Mary Bailey of Last Prisoner Project, Shaun King and more. The Project is supported by Amy Povah of the Can-Do Foundation and receives significant funding from multi-state cannabis company Cresco Labs.
Michigan marijuana grows ask state to slow corporate ‘green rush’
Rick Thompson, representing the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML), a regular political foe of the MCMA, agreed with Edgerton on one point: there should be a focus on expanding the market to combat saturation.
Fewer than 120 of Michigan’s 1,773 cities, villages and townships have opted to allow recreational marijuana sales.
Thompson, a longtime supporter of the caregiver system, disagreed with the CRA upping its enforcement of unlicensed marijuana.
“That might favor the MCMA’s position but it’s It’s not under the authority of the CRA to engage in enforcement actions on people who are not licensed by the CRA,” he said. “That is a function of the Michigan state police and it’s a misdirection of resources.”
Michigan taps cannabis industry for suggestions amid market saturation
Michigan marijuana reformers praise Biden for ‘first big domino’ on path to federal legalization
“It’s a shame that it’s such a weak move and affects so few people here in Michigan … but its important that Biden sets the tone,” said Rick Thompson, who leads the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (NORML). “Federally expunging crimes and then asking the states to to do him one better, I think that’s huge. I’m totally excited by it, even though the number of people affected by it are not as many as I wish.”
“This comes one months before we’re about to cast votes,” Thompson said. “So the timing does seem to indicate a political motive, but I’ll take it.”