Whitmer Selects State Police Crime Analyst for Top Cannabis Regulator Job

The focus will be on tackling the illicit cannabis market.

This story was republished with permission from Crain’s Detroit and written by Dustin Walsh.

Michigan’s regulatory agency overseeing the legal marijuana industry is getting a new acting top regulator following the departure of founding executive director Andrew Brisbo this month.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer announced Thursday that law enforcement analyst Brian Hanna will serve in the top spot at the Cannabis Regulatory Agency on an acting basis effective Sept. 19.

Brian Hanna, acting executive director, Michigan Cannabis Regulatory Agency. Photo provided by Cannabis Regulatory Agency

Hanna rejoins the CRA from the Michigan State Police where he most recently served as an analyst in the Lansing computer crimes division. He spent more than four years at the CRA as an investigations manager before departing in March of this year.

He also previously served as a criminal intelligence manager for the MSP.

The governor’s office said in the release it still planned to conduct a nationwide search for a permanent head of the CRA.

Last month, the state announced Brisbo would depart the role to become the head of the Bureau of Construction Codes within the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.

The industry’s largest players had been quietly critical of Brisbo for not taking a more hard-nosed stance on the illicit marijuana market and caregivers who are feeding into the medical marijuana system.

The Michigan Cannabis Manufacturers Association, which represents large marijuana operations in the state, issued a statement after Brisbo’s departure announcement noting that the next director needs to tackle the illicit drug market.

“At the MCMA, we stand ready to partner with and support the Whitmer administration and the CRA’s new director in ramping-up enforcement in the regulated market to help ensure consumers have access to safe, quality product,” Mark Fisk, MCMA co-executive director, said in a press release. “We look forward to supporting the new CRA director’s efforts to address Michigan’s massive illicit market, which poses an immediate threat to patients and consumers and threatens to destabilize the regulated market.”

Michigan’s legal marijuana market has been plagued by oversupply and limited retail locations in the last six months, causing prices to collapse.

As of August 31, the legal industry had nearly 1.5 million marijuana plants growing, compared to just 404,000 a year earlier. The average price of an ounce of marijuana flower in Michigan is down nearly 70 percent in the last 12 months to just $116.84 in August, according to CRA data.

It’s unclear how much the illicit market is impacting prices.

Nevertheless, legal retailers sold more than $189 million in marijuana in August alone of this year, compared with $125.5 million last August when prices were much higher.

“I am thrilled to welcome Brian Hanna as the new acting executive director of the Cannabis Regulatory Agency, where he will continue putting Michiganders first, growing our economy and creating jobs,” Gov. Whitmer said in a press release. “The state of Michigan and the CRA are at the forefront of the nation’s hemp and marijuana industry, setting the standard for stimulating business growth and preserving secure consumer access to cannabis. A win for the industry is a win for Michiganders because its tax revenue allows us to invest back into our schools, roads, and other essential services that make a real difference in our communities. I am confident Brian will serve as an excellent leader as the CRA continues establishing Michigan as the national model for cannabis regulations.”

Hanna earned a bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and served as a captain in the U.S. Army Reserve.

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