The Buzz: Michigan Issues First Recreational Licenses; 2 States Ban Products with Vitamin E Acetate

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Michigan Delivers Recreational Licenses

Michigan’s Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) issued the state’s first recreational licenses on Tuesday, multiple outlets reported.

Ann Arbor’s Exclusive Brands was among the first to be awarded licenses, according to the Detroit Free Press. The company already operates a medical marijuana dispensary, and plans to opens its first adult-use store on December 1 when statewide recreational sales will be permitted.

“It feels great to the be the first to have licenses here in Michigan,” Exclusive owner Omar Hishmeh said during a press conference, noting that customers could expect a “long line” on December 1.

Exclusive is a vertically-integrated operation that already grows, processes and sells cannabis products. Earlier this month, state regulators said dispensary operators would be allowed to transfer 50% of their medical marijuana inventory to the adult-use facilities.

Other recreational licenses went to PSI Labs, a cannabis testing company, and Real Leaf Solutions, a marijuana events business.

The state expects to issue roughly a dozen permits by Dec. 1, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Nevertheless, a broader statewide rollout is expected to be slow since nearly 1,400 Michigan cities and towns have said they won’t greenlight recreational marijuana businesses.

Michigan began accepting applications for recreational licenses on November 1, according to a press release.

According to MLive.com, 38 retail license applicants had been pre-qualified. As of Wednesday, more than 80 businesses had applied for recreational licenses, according to the outlet.

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Cannabis Products Containing Vitamin E Acetate Banned in Michigan, Washington

The MRA today announced emergency rules concerning cannabis vaping products, including mandatory testing and a ban on the vitamin E acetate thickening agent that has been linked to thousands of vaping-related lung injuries (EVALI). 

“It is absolutely vital that patients and consumers know, with certainty, the ingredients in the products that they are using,” Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist said via a press release. “These rules require stringent testing and will continue to prioritize the health and safety of Michiganders.”

According to the announcement, the MRA will inspect processing facilities twice a month to ensure compliance with its new manufacturing standards and require licensed safety compliance facilities to test for vitamin E acetate.

Earlier this week, Washington officials also banned vitamin E acetate. On Monday, the Washington State Board of Health announced that cannabis products containing vitamin E acetate would no longer be permitted for sale at dispensaries as of Nov. 20, 2019.

These announcements come after Colorado and Ohio implemented similar bans on products containing the substance.

Earlier this month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said vitamin E acetate was linked to the outbreak of lung illnesses. According to the CDC, fluid samples taken from 29 patients in 10 states all contained traces of vitamin E acetate.

As of November 20, 2019, 2,290 cases of EVALI have been reported to CDC from 49 states, the District of Columbia, and 2 U.S. territories. The CDC has also confirmed 47 deaths in 25 states and Washington D.C.

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Acreage Holdings to Acquire New Jersey's Compassionate Care Foundation as State Lawmakers Punt on Legalization Bill

New York’s Acreage Holdings, one of the largest vertically-integrated cannabis operators in the U.S., this week announced it would acquire New Jersey’s Compassionate Care Foundation (CCF), pending state approval.

Earlier this year, Acreage extended a $12.5 million revolving line of credit to CCF under the condition that the note would automatically convert into an equity stake if New Jersey approved adult-use sales or reformed exisiting laws allowing medical dispensaries to operate as for-profit entities. 

"Acreage Holdings will acquire 54% of the equity interests in such entity upon conversion of the CCF Revolving Note ‎and will acquire the remaining 46% for $10,000,000 in equity in Acreage Holdings," a June SEC filing notes.

Recreational marijuana sales are not currently permitted in New Jersey, and the state requires that its six permitted medical cannabis dispensaries -- known as alternative treatment centers -- operate as nonprofits. According to NJ.com, New Jersey’s Department of Health is currently reviewing a plan to allow dispensaries to operate as for-profit entities. 

In a press release, Acreage chief executive Kevin Murphy said he was “thrilled to finally welcome CCF into the Acreage family.”

“This reorganization will result in increased access to affordable medical cannabis for New Jersey’s existing patients in short order,” he said. “Moreover, we have long believed that upon adult-use legalization, the New England and Mid-Atlantic regions will be the preeminent cannabis market in the U.S. and Acreage is best positioned of any U.S. cannabis company to benefit.”

Acreage, which reported third quarter revenue of $22.4 million earlier this month, said CCF operates one of the state’s largest indoor growing facilities.

Acreage and CCF’s relationship dates back to 2018, when the two companies negotiated a management services agreement.

Citing Arcview Market Research data, Acreage said sales of medical marijuana in New Jersey could reach $317 million by 2022.

Acreage is one of the most high-profile multi-state cannabis operators in the U.S. The company’s footprint spans 20 states, and its board of directors includes former Speaker of the House John Boehner and former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld.

Acreage’s acquisition of CCF comes at a time when New Jersey lawmakers halted efforts to drum up support for a bill that would have legalized recreational cannabis. According to Politico, legislators opted instead to give registered New Jersey voters a chance to weigh in on the issue in 2020.