Michigan reverses stance, allows medical cannabis dispensaries to stay open

Michigan reverses stance, allows medical cannabis dispensaries to stay open

Michigan’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs announced on Wednesday medical cannabis dispensaries could stay open during the licensing process.

Back in September, cannabis businesses were supposed to close by Dec. 15, the day applications for five categories of licenses become available, or they would risk losing their chase of obtaining one of the licenses.

The decision came as medical cannabis cardholders in Michigan, which number 272,000, worried they wouldn’t have access to the product because of the lapse of time between applications and licenses being awarded early next year.

“Patient input played a big factor in the reversal,” Andrew Brisbo, director of the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, said. “When we looked at the feedback, especially from people with the greatest difficulty of access, we wanted to ensure that those folks would have access to their medicine.”

Regulators said those dispensaries operating with the approval of their local community could stay open while going through the state licensing process.

Retired Michigan State Police officer Don Bailey and chairman Rick Johnson, two members of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board, disagreed with the new ruling and said they wanted the dispensaries to shut down even sooner than Dec. 15.

But, Brisbo said board members were aware of the ruling and would honor its impact.

“Administrative rules have the effect of the law, and the board can’t make decisions outside the confines of the rules,” Brisbo said.

After the hearing from medical cannabis patients, Senator Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, one of the sponsors of the legislation, said he was in favor of allowing dispensaries to stay open.

“Certainly, I want dispensaries to follow the law and get licensing, but there does need to be a transition period and as the representatives of the Epilepsy Foundation stated at our hearing, it’s a matter of life and death for some of these people,” he said.

Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, another sponsor of the bill, said it is important the department is working to allow patients to continue accessing medicine in a safe way during the transition period.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a legislative fix or emergency rules. We’re just in favor of something that’s going to guarantee safe access,” he said.

The applications for five categories of licenses include growers, testers, secure transporters and dispensaries, and will be available from the state on Dec. 15.

Proposed facilities must stop operating if they do not apply by Feb. 15, if they are denied a license, or are not issued by one by June 15. The Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board will begin awarding licenses early next year.

Out of all the dispensaries in Detroit, Lansing, Ypsilanti, Ann Arbor, and Flint, some in northern Michigan had to shut down last month after police raided the facilities.

After the initial rule came out in September, Advanced Wellness, a dispensary in Detroit, shut down because the owners did not want to jeopardize their chance at a license.

“It had a significant impact on them and their patients. They had to cover all of their costs for their building out of pocket,” said Amir Makled, an attorney representing the dispensary in Detroit. “And every one of their patients were in a real blind.”