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Spotlight - The Face of Unchecked Power - January 2020

By Matthew Gervais

Executive Director of the Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, Andrew Brisbo, has become the face of government controlled weed.  And to be honest, this article has little to do with him personally.  He just happened to be gazing into the distance like Thanos, and he just happens to direct one of the most powerful government agencies in the state, and he just happens to be quoted saying things like “At this time, I’m not ready to commit to any specific changes to the draft rules” (rather than ‘we’ or ‘the agency’, etc).  Coincidence?  That is for the reader to decide. 

The Michigan Marijuana Regulatory Agency, for the time being, has complete control over legal marijuana in Michigan.  Like Thanos, they have near limitless power over everything from water, to words.  With an all seeing all knowing METRC system at hand, and no one looking over their shoulder.

And like most comic book villians, things happen when they want, how they want.  Licensees get to experience most of these rules in a sort of George W. Bush era ‘Shock and Awe’ style unveiling.  Bulletins drop like inter-dimentional alien invasions; out of nowhere and totally unexpected.  In the aftermath, business owners are then left to get out their wallets, make the proper changes, step-and-fetch in general, or risk losing their license and investments.  Unless, of course, one enters into an agreement with Lord MRA and pays a hefty tribute to the one true ruler of marijuana, space and time.  Just ask Iron Labs.   

In the first year of regulated marijuana the MRA has snapped it’s fingers and brought into existence a bevy of intergalactic space tyrant-esque rules.  Here are just a few acts your marijuana government has committed that are straight out of comic book villany.

Control over speech

In the ‘Marketing and Advertising Restrictions for Marijuana Facilities and Establishments’ updated October 22 of 2019, the MRA determined that both medicinal, and now adult-use, marijuana businesses can not use the word ‘dispensary’ in any advertising.  Meanwhile every single person in the industry calls them dispensaries.  Industry workers in the clinics and shops will know the pain of saying ‘provisioning center’ and being corrected by the customer, “Do you mean dispensary?”  Words are speech, written or spoken.  Speech, as everyone knows, is a way to express one’s mind.  In controlling what words we can and can not use as a community and a market they assert power over our collective minds.  The  idea of a population auto-training themselves to re-pattern their speech on the whim of authority would give any of your average omnipotent comic book tyrants a large evil smirk.

An all seeing crystal ball

Comic books (and their subsequent movies) are rife with over-the-top bad guys, there is never just one.  Some wield strength, some technology, others just have access to seemingly infinite information.  Anyone familiar with dastardly fictional deeds knows full well information is often the most powerful of weapons.

The Bureau of Marijuana Regulation (BMR, or for the sake of our analogy, ‘Ebony Maw’) in a March 21, 2019 bulletin, graciously allowed marijuana businesses to participate in business partnerships.  The ‘Intellectual Property – Brands and Recipes’ rules stated that license holders could work together, using each others brands and recipes, and would even be allowed to pay each other royalties and enter into contracts.  Quite benevolent.  The catch?

 “Licensees are required to provide a copy of the contract – including the names of the individuals involved in the contract – to the Bureau of Marijuana Regulation (BMR) Medical Marijuana Facility Licensing Application Section at Licensees shall also notify the BMR Facility Licensing Application Section when any changes are made to the contract.

Knowing about any and all business partnerships and changes to said contracts as they happen is nothing short of powerful.  Add in METRC, a techno-web of data on the entire seed to sale marijuana market in Michigan, and we are talking time-travelling space wizard levels of power.

The freedom to choose allies in ones own reality

With a recent snap of the fingers, the MRA proposes requiring marijuana businesses to enter into peace agreements with labor unions as part of the licensing process.  Andrew Brisbo of the MRA was quoted December 13 by the Detroit Free Press explaining the reasoning behind the latest decree:

“There is a fully robust illicit market in Michigan and we’re trying to pull that into the regulated market,” he said. “The risks of disruption to the regulated environment are challenges for the industry operators and consumers, but could have specific impacts on the public health and safety” if consumers return to the black market for their marijuana products.

In short, the MRA believes it should have the power to tell all license holders they must ally with labor unions in order to prevent strikes that would force consumers to the ‘black market’.

Is that the reality you perceive?  Labor unions as incorruptible beacons of righteousness?  The best defense against basic economics and caregivers?  A tool used to protect state revenue rather than workers?  Should a government agency have the power to dictate reality in the eyes of license holders? 

‘Share our reality, or cease to exist’ sounds like an ultimatum straight out of the mouth of only the most twisted of comic book overlords.

Spoiler Alert - Vigilance must never die

Where the MRA and its ilk fall short, in comparison to the large purple Thanos, is that they do not actually have god like power.  They are a government agency that, despite sitting outside the boundaries of constitutional checks and balances, will never be more powerful than the people.  So long as the people remain vigilant and informed.  Marijuana may be legal, but that only means it is in the hands of the government.

Behind this (clearly evil) url lurk the MRA bulletins:,4601,7-154-89334_79571_83460---,00.html

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