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Expenses Explode At Michigan Medical Marijuana Program


michigan medical marijuana town hallFor a state department that does nothing but print and issue marijuana registry cards, you’d think the expenses would go down when fewer cards are issued.

Not so at Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department (LARA), the agency responsible for administering the state Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) patient database.

Despite issuing 26,000 fewer registry identification cards, LARA reported an increase in expenses of $1.8 million- more than a 44% jump from last year’s $4 million price tag.

In Fiscal Year 2013 the state printed 145,000 cards for the program and spent $4 million in expenses. In FY 2014 LARA issued 119,000 cards and charged Michigan citizens $5.8 million to do it.

michigan medical marijuana price per card

The $5.8 million comes directly from the Medical Marihuana Fund, a self-generating fund created by the revenues from registration fees paid by medical marijuana patients and caregivers. It was reported earlier in 2014 that the fund had a positive balance of more than $27 million.

Revenue figures for FY 2014 dropped significantly. LARA reports $8.882 million received versus $10.898 in FY 2013.

“The department has a relatively simply task in processing applications and issuing licenses to program participants,” said Jamie Lowell, co-founder of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center and Chairman of theMichigan chapter of Americans for Safe Access (ASA). “Although the amount of work has decreased, the cost to run the department has inexplicably significantly increased.”

What LARA is doing with all that extra money is unclear.

“Perhaps some of the excess funds could have been reimbursed to patients, since the state is not intended to profit from the MMMP program,” said Matthew Abel, an attorney and co-founder of Detroit’s Cannabis Counsel. He’s also the Executive Director for the Michigan chapter of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws (MiNORML). “If the state wants to profit, then we should move toward legalization and collect state sales tax on marijuana.  If we did that, perhaps we could fix and maintain the roads without raising the sales tax.”


As the result of legislative action in 2012 the MMP began a two-year registry period in 2013. Each medical marijuana identification card issued for half of FY 2013- starting in April- would not have to be re-registered until 2015 or 2016.

Renewal applications for the MMP would have been received during the last quarter of 2013 and the first quarter of 2014, meaning there should have been no renewal applications submitted to or approved by LARA from April – September, 2014, the last half of FY 2014.

In FY 2013 there were a total of 36,175 renewal applications approved by LARA and only 18,436 in FY 2014- almost exactly half. This lack of renewal applications is a result of that new 2 year program and these figures indicate the MMP is not declining in number of registered participants.

Similarly, the number of new applications indicate solid support for the program. The number of Initial Applications received in FY 2014 was 92,652- a 32% increase from the 70,262 reported during FY 2013.

FY 2013’s new patient enrollment numbers are partially inflated due to a backlog of 2012 applications being processed in the next fiscal year. The number of Initial Applications reported was not inflated by that backlog.

Some activists were expecting the increase in number of new applications filed. “I’m not surprised,” said Brad Forrester, a Board member with the MiNORML group. “There are at least 1,000,000 people in the state who qualify for the [medical marijuana]program. If those people ever want access to medical cannabis treatment options, they better get involved with one or more of the organizations lobbying legislators, like Michigan NORML, National Patients Rights Association or Americans for Safe Access to encourage legislators to pass laws that broaden access to medical cannabis treatment options, not make access more restrictive.”

With similar intent, Cannabis Patients United’s David Brogren suggested concerned patients and caregivers consider joining his organization, a registered 501(c)4 non-profit.

Source: TheCompassionChronicles.Com


About Author

"Rick Thompson was the Editor in Chief for the entire 2-year run of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, was the spokesman for the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and is the current Editor and Lead Blogger for The Compassion Chronicles. Rick has addressed committees in both the House and Senate, has authored over 200 articles on marijuana and is a professional photographer." Rick Thompson Is An Author At The Compassion Chronicles and focuses on all things Michigan.


  1. The got is giving law enforcement the money to police,raid and seize property of
    those with cards.

  2. Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-Mah on

    ok new word ….. OB as in obtuse Bla as in borring task, Gated meaning a control entry. so OBLAGATED makes sense to me … yep I m stone dude said he felt OBLAGATED

  3. Seems like the trickel down theory is in full effect, give all your money to those whom need it the least and you will get as little as possible in return, There is a policy in place to help us in this War on drugs, VOTE

  4. Why don’t you mention the disproportionate amount of money that goes to cancer research at the expense of ALS, (which I know from personal experience to be worse if that’s possible); Or, MS, Alzheimer’s take your pick.

  5. He demeans people over 60. Only he knows why. We’re getting tired of it, or at least I am. Thanks

  6. Somehow I find that hard to believe. Or you wouldn’t be repeatedly insulting those of us aged 60++.

  7. Isn’t it Michigan that put their Governor up for a recall vote, he beat it, was then re-elected last November ? Now they’re saying that he might be a Presidential candidate? If so, I’d say that Michigan has an identity problem.

  8. I have referred to this in one of my posts. Individual rights trump states and federal rights issues. The Feds are in our doctors offices, our living rooms, they get lists of books we’ve read and now our e-mails and posts. Lots of work to do to take back our government.

  9. Legalization is not enough. We need the government out of the business. Otherwise we will have legal cartels instead of illegal ones. ATF will replace DEA. Or DEA will be transformed into ATF.

  10. I see no problem here. If every stoner or Medical MJ user wrote a letter to the President that would be useful. We also should start a nationwide petition to demand enactment of legalization and force the clown Congress that they’re jobs are on the line. Majority rule in USA is a lie.

  11. Nothing wrong with profit if government is not controlling entry into the market.

    No more regulated than tomatoes. No more taxed than tomatoes.

  12. It is time we started hunting them:

    Cannabis cures cancer. Cancer kills 586,000 Americans every year. Every Prohibitionist is complicit in mass murder.

    Pass it on.

    And if you need evidence try this: Look up “Dr William Courtney Brain Tumor”. And if they say “Not a proper study” reply “Get it off schedule one.”

  13. I believe this is what bothers;

    Cannabis cures cancer. Cancer kills 586,000 Americans every year. Every Prohibitionist is complicit in mass murder.

    We are now over 50% I see no point in coddling Prohibitionists to get them or those prohibition inclined to change their minds. I want to drive them out of the discussion. When they open their mouths I want people to think “mass murderer.”

    It is time to take the gloves off.

  14. Not sleep. Noooo. Your post was right on. I was just kiddjng. Gotta laugh while we’re pushing the wheels of injustice forward. (I know how to spell obligated.) I felt obliged to mispel it. Sorry if I upset you.

  15. No, you have continuously insulted people, particularly those 60+, rather than attempting to educate them by offering definitive, understandable information about cannabis. The latter would take some logical thought and effort; throwing around mindless insults is counterproductive.

  16. If it isn’t one drug cartel, it’s another. In this case, our Michigan Government. We really, really need to vote these bastards out.

  17. If Big Marijuana is forming (like Big Pharma did) and it even seems to be beginning to lean toward monopolization than we have to demand competition in the best tradition of American busuness. Clinics have to be allowed to stay open and continue to apply and open. We must be able to have the choice of purchasing the quality and purity of various strains and get personal guidance from the clinic specialists. The nightmare scenereo would be limited strain choice and likely contaminated herbal products as our only choice. If the nightmare comes to pass we may very well see the first instances in history of people getting sickened or worse from government ignorance and a Big Marijuana mentality with the associated contamination of strains with additives and other chemicals.
    Another distubring rumor is that some states will have the doctors writing prescriptions for medicinal marijuana.
    The best models for growth, distribution and sale of Marijuana should focus on Growers/Suppliers and clinics, and being able to grow our own in the privacy of our individual homes and other private habitations.
    Legalization, when it comes, forces us to anticipate and lobby for the individual rights of citizens.

  18. WTHuh? Did you write that last sentence for stoners? I’m obliterated, no, oblagated to ask for more time to figure out the metaphor or allegory in the last sentence. I forget which one is a metaphor and which one is an allegory. I gotta figure out what I gotta figure out. Thank you.

  19. Dennis Pielack on

    No matter which way this very uninformed group of government workers screw up, cheat, inflate costs, impose restrictions, on marijuana users attempting to play by the rules, the use of marijuana will continue to grow, legally, or illegally as it did before the MMMA, simply because marijuana is a smarter, safer, alternative to any other recreational substance as well as it is a multipurpose medicine which the government, law enforcement, and the courts erroneously maintain as a Schedule 1 drug. No one has to believe and conform to their error as long as he is wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove in his efforts to use marijuana, and cautious to expose the ugly truth and hypocrisy of Michigan’s government’s -governor’s, attorney general’s, law enforcement’s, and the court’s- policies to inhibit medical or any other kind of marijuana use in Michigan. The People gave the People marijuana through the efforts and votes of the People; government failed us in that effort, and continues to fail us in providing an interpretation of the MMMA that conforms to the intent of the People. Those enemies of marijuana have ignored the People and the intent of the MMMA, and still force their Big Brother ignorance and prejudice on the People. Get ready for the next election, and be sure marijuana is given its rightful priority.

  20. Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-Mah on

    what ever it becomes we need a method of equitable exchange for the produce we grow and a clean safe market accessible by everyone not some private hole in the alley dispensary with self serving owner/Growers giving special pricing to Their Specific strain…… and marking down other equal quality products just because it is their profit margin they are attempting to market for profit. what I am attempting to say is the “dispensary” needs to be impartial and held null in effect to the exchange of produce…. like the fed cannot sell goods a dispensary should not be allowed to be associated with a grower. yes mold and pesticide inspection done separately before delivery to a dispensary PRE analysis THC.CBD, Organic < mold and pesticide free. ….. cannabis product. from the garden analysis by unit> tech sealed container for point of purchase distribution< locally only no interstate transport and maybe even county restricted travel of raw produce…… which is already ruled by invasive plant laws so far no one has made this an issue but it will become one when folks start transporting live clones across state lines. and gorilla farming by folks that don't have land to grow on like public forest lands.

  21. Mi-Cree-Ni Quash-Mah on

    seems every mule needs to feed while they pull the grinding stone.
    regulations cost money….. and money is always more…..never less,
    turn all cannabis profit into a barter system and see how many bundles of weed the political machine is willing to carry to the trunk of the car…..force the purchase of cannabis products to be on a stamp method issued by the GOV yep separate from the US gold Checks that have no real value …..gold is down….POT IS UP make a new monetary standard.

  22. George Van Setters on

    Good stuff Rick, I would like to personally thank you for all the good work, and great peer reviews. I love reading your point of view. thank you

  23. Sounds like a congressman has found a place to put his grubby hand on that pile of money !

  24. I couldn’t have said it better myself. After almost a century of draconian prohibitionist witch hunting conducted at the taxpayers expense, rewarding the repeal of prohibition with additional tax revenue seems a bit like giving your dog a treat for shitting in the house.

  25. What we need is to get the government out of the business altogether. No more taxed or regulated than tomatoes. At any level. We don’t want illegal cartels. We don’t want legal cartels.

    We definitely don’t want to have to depend on GW Pharmaceuticals and similar type companies for our medicine. We don’t want government and doctors controlling who gets medicine.

    We have done enough begging on our knees to make our point. It is now time to stand on our feet and demand what Eric Garner demanded. “It stops today.” – “Don’t touch me.” – “Just leave me alone.”

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