Are Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Legal in Michigan?
The current legal landscape is not good for dispensaries. Even though there is no specific mention of dispensaries in the MMMA, the Courts have found that medical marijuana dispensaries are not legal. This means that all dispensaries that operate in Michigan are operating illegally and without legal protection. These businesses could be shut down tomorrow, however, in most cases, local police agencies turn a blind eye and allow them to remain open. This unofficial policy of little to no enforcement does not prevent dispensary owners from seeing their businesses raided, shut down, and impending felony charges levied against themselves and employees. Anyone can check the news to see that every month dispensaries are shut down somewhere in Michigan.
Patient To Patient Transfers Are Prohibited
Since People v. McQueen was decided in 2013, patient to patient transfers have been prohibited, which in effect made dispensaries illegal under MMMA. Regardless of this decision, some people still held on to the hope that Section 8’s Affirmative Defense provision would allow dispensaries to continue to operate in certain situations. However, in May of 2016, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled that patient to patient sales and caregiver to caregiver sales were not allowed by Section 4 or Section 8 of the MMMA. This has done away with the last vestiges of hope for dispensaries under the MMMA. The Courts have interpreted the MMMA to only allow for sales of medical marijuana between a caregiver and that caregiver’s designated patients. Patients cannot sell medical marijuana to other patients. Caregivers cannot sell to other caregivers or to patients that are not registered to them. In addition, caregivers and patients are not allowed to sell their “overages” to dispensaries. All these types of transactions are prohibited by the MMMA. Consequently, there is no way for dispensaries to run legally under the MMMA.
Impact of The Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act
To remedy this situation the Medical Marijuana Facility Act was passed late in 2016. Through this Act, a whole new framework of growing, processing, transporting, testing and dispensing medical marijuana will be created. This new Act will allow dispensaries or provisioning centers to operate in Michigan under new regulations and limitations. In-order to run a dispensary an individual or company will have to apply for and obtain a license from the newly created medical marijuana board. Applications may be submitted starting in December of 2017. The current bill, HB 402, which creates the basic framework allowing dispensaries to operate is over 60 pages and contains numerous restrictions, rules and regulations. Notwithstanding the length of this current bill, there are still vast amounts of items left unmentioned.
The newly created medical marijuana board will be creating new regulations as December 2017 approaches which will give potential applicants more information on how their business must be run and what they must do to comply with the new regulations. Moreover, individuals will not be able to operate dispensaries in cities, townships, villages, or other types of municipalities, unless that municipality adopts an ordinance specifically allowing a dispensary license to be obtained from persons within its jurisdiction. These municipalities do not have to do this, and if they do not then dispensaries will be illegal in that location. Alternatively, municipalities can allow dispensaries to operate, but may limit the amount of licenses, thus, potentially limiting the number to just one.
There is much uncertainty about what municipalities will allow a dispensary license and the future regulations to be passed by the new Medical Marijuana Board. As a consequence, many people don’t know where to turn or what to do to continue running their business or to start one once applications can be considered. If you have questions or concerns regarding the new licensing act we can help.