Distilling the Madness as Dispensary Shutdowns Loom

With a possible shutdown of the bulk of Michigan’s existing dispensaries in the hands of the state’s Medical Marijuana Board, it’s important to look at the moving parts that shape this issue.
The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved by voters in 2008, but lacked much of the industry regulation that has since become commonplace in other states that have adopted medical cannabis laws. The vague law was generally unchallenged until 2013, when the Michigan Supreme Court handed down a ruling declaring dispensaries illegal, as the original legislation never made mention of provisioning centers/dispensaries.

The Supreme Court ruling prompted legislators to introduce bills over the ensuing years, before finally passing regulating legislation in 2016, calling for the creation of a Medical Marijuana Board to control the licensing process.

As the board took shape, it became clear the interests of the existing medical community might not be a high priority. The board includes two former cops, the chair of the Michigan Board of Pharmacy, a former Republican State Senator and the former Director of Public Policy for General Motors. Not exactly a group of cannabis industry insiders, and many in the cannabis community – both patients and existing dispensary owners – question the Board’s commitment to patients rather than proceeds.

That brings us to today, just a couple months ahead of what could be a complete industry shutdown while the state reviews licensing applications. LARA, the state department of licensing and regulatory affairs, gave dispensaries a reprieve until December 15, the date licensing applications open. The language used by LARA didn’t rule out dispensaries staying open while licenses are under review, but did say remaining open after December 15th could create a “potential impediment” to obtaining a license.

We can’t be sure exactly how the licensing process will all shake out, but it’s causing a big, and perhaps excessively burdensome stir in an industry poised to become a massive asset and contributor to the state’s economy.

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