Michigan medical cannabis has not been fully implemented by state officials yet, but there are dispensaries that are selling medical marijuana to patients now and they have been for a while. Licensing does not officially begin until December 15 and there is a proposal to close down any dispensaries until licensing begins. Is it a potential sign of how strong the demand is for medical marijuana that establishments will start selling cannabis before the state officially licenses them?
EAST LANSING — A proposal to close all medical marijuana dispensaries operating in Michigan until the state starts officially licensing them drew outrage today from people who depend on the drug to treat a variety of ailments.
Donald Bailey, a retired Michigan State Police trooper and member of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, said the dispensaries should be shut down by Sept. 5 and any outlets that remain open should not be eligible to apply for licenses when the state makes those applications available on Dec. 15.
“Every dispensary out there is open in violation of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act,” Bailey said during an afternoon meeting of the board. “It’s a felony for every sale that occurs from a dispensary.”
After hearing from dozens of medical marijuana patients and potential future marijuana business owners, the board decided to table Bailey’s proposal.
“I have a degenerative bone disorder and discovering medical marijuana was a game changer for me,” said Mark Gibson of Detroit. “Before you make a rash decision, the financial cost for people who rely on dispensaries for product will be significant. You will complicate their life so much that they may not be able to get treatment.”
Kirk Reed, who uses medical marijuana to treat multiple sclerosis, said he fears having to go back to the black market to get his supply.
“What happens if your caregiver has a heart attack, where do you go for medicine?” he said.
And Tim Beck, who was instrumental in getting the medical marijuana constitutional amendment on the 2008 ballot, said he was dumbfounded when he heard the proposal.
“This comes across to me as petty, vindictive and authoritarian,” he said.
But not all of the couple of hundred people attending the meeting were on the side of existing businesses. Some people who want to be considered for a license when the state begins accepting applications don’t want to be shut out of the market by people who have been operating dispensaries without a license from the state.
And David Scott, supervisor of Commerce Township, said there are 67 grow operations in his township, many of which are growing more plants than are allowed by existing law.
“Knock off the crap that’s illegal and is nothing but organized crime,” he said.
Voters approved medical marijuana in 2008, allowing caregivers to grow up to 12 plants for each of six patients who have approved medical marijuana cards.
Some communities went after dispensaries, shut them down and criminally charged the owners. Other communities, such as Detroit, Lansing, Flint, Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor, allowed the pot shops to operate without police intervention. In Detroit, there are more than 70 shops that are operating that have either gone through or are completing the city’s approval process.
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