BY RICK THOMPSON \n Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) has announced a start date of January 15 for new Medical Marihuana Program (MMP) administrative rules and registration forms, but has not yet posted the new forms to their website. \n The announcement of the January 15 date for the new program’s rollout came via the LARA website . Although the statement is undated, the file name includes the date 12-17-2014 and the text carries the phrase, “applicants who apply for registry cards on or after January 15, 2015 must use the new forms that will be available in approximately 2 weeks.” \n As of this writing the new forms had not been loaded onto the LARA website yet and were unavailable. When they do come online they will be found HERE . \n The proposed revisions are featured on the Office of Regulatory Reinvention (ORR) website . The ORR confirmed by telephone on Friday December 26 that the online version is the final edit for the rule changes. \n The June 20 proposal contains strikethrough text, boldface, italicized and normal text. “For patients, this is a confusing time.” said Jamie Lowell of Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center. \n The announcement did list three specific changes: \n \n • Establish a $60 application fee for all qualifying patients (reduced from $100). \n• Eliminate the reduced $25 application fee. \n• Require that caregivers pay a $25 processing fee for each required criminal background check. \n \n The proposed changes have been controversial, drawing criticism from advocates and legislators alike. Many advocates delivered testimony directly to LARA and the ORR during a citizen comment session held in Lansing. Each person was given two minutes to express their views before a lawyer, an administrator and a court reporter. \n LARA was not able to avoid the ire of Sen. John Pappageorge (R-Troy), who headed the joint committee (JCAR) that considered rule changes submitted by all departments of Michigan government. He blasted LARA in September for trying to promulgate rules that favored themselves at the expense of patients. Per an MLive news article, the Senator stated the proposal would not be accepted “unless LARA softens the online registration requirement, perhaps by allowing paper registration when Internet access is not feasible.” \n During that same hearing Rep. Tom McMillin (R-Rochester Hills) took issue with a rule change that may make it nearly impossible to add new conditions to the medical marijuana program’s list of illnesses that qualify a patient for registration. \n The proposed changes posted online are exactly the same as they were before the meeting with Pappageorge and McMillin. If the online posting is correct, either the joint committee approved the new rules in December without any of the changes described by Senators and Representatives, or LARA is forcing the changes through without administrative approval. \n “It’s hard to guide patients while the rules are in limbo now,” said Jamie Fricke of Holistic Earth LLC in Davison. \n Changes to the MMA applications and the administrative rules are becoming a regular event- even when legislation is not passed. The LARA website still contains a notice of changes to the Patient Application and Physician Certification forms from January 2014, just one year ago. In 2013 LARA changed the interpretation of the admin rules established in 2009 and eliminated a discounted enrollment rate of $25 for certified disabled Michigan residents , without the approval of the legislature or the people. A package of bills passed in 2012 mandated a series of MMP application changes and administrative rules updates in 2013. \n The need for the most recent proposed changes to the administrative rules is explained by this message from the ORR page : \n \n In 2008, MCL 333.26425(a) of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act gave the Department only 120 days to implement the program and promulgate administrative rules. As a result, a number of unanticipated issues have emerged that were not addressed in the short period of time available for implementation. While several of the administrative rules have been revised to comply with Public Acts 460 and 512 of 2012, the entire rule set has not undergone a comprehensive evaluation since the statute was implemented. \n \n A history of the administrative rule changes can be found HERE . That history does not show the approval of the rules by JCAR. \n All of the 2014 proposed rule changes for every department are listed HERE . \n The Regulatory Impact Statement filed by the legislature can be found HERE .