When Michigan voted to legalize medical marijuana in 2008, most patients believed they’d never have to purchase cannabis illegally again. That could change if Michigan’s Executive Marijuana Board chairman has his way.
The five member board is expected to vote on whether or not to close all dispensaries until the state can devise more formal guidelines for dispensaries to adhere to. Michigan medical marijuana dispensaries would then have to reapply for licensing and be approved by the state of Michigan before they could re-open. Should the board vote to close these marijuana dispensaries, they likely would not review or accept any new applications to the Michigan medical marijuana program until the beginning of 2018.
Potential Impact On Patients Who Rely On Medical Marijuana
A vote to close all marijuana dispensaries in Michigan would have serious implications that would be felt throughout the state.
Michigan is home to more than 280 dispensaries that cater to it’s 218,556 medical marijuana patients, according to the Marijuana Policy Project. Forcing the closure of all its dispensaries could lead individuals in Michigan to seek out illegal black market options to medicate. Were patients to be forced to return to the black market, it is likely that marijuana-related crime would rise significantly, while state and local tax revenues would drop.
Issues With Michigan’s Original Medical Marijuana Act
Board chairman, Republican Rick Johnson, has been vocal in his support for shutting down Michigan marijuana dispensaries until further notice. He and former Michigan State Police officer Don Bailey are the two members of the board most supportive of the vote. Bailey has stated “every dispensary out there is in open violation of the act,” in reference to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008. Therein lies the problem.
The act itself faced much criticism in the first few years it was passed into law. While the bill legalized medical marijuana, it didn’t provide any clear guidelines for dispensaries. With no clear rules in place, dispensaries applied for licensing according to local and regional guidelines. But there are different laws for different areas of Michigan. A marijuana dispensary in Detroit may face entirely different application and review standards than a dispensary in Grand Rapids. The Executive Marijuana Board is looking to change this. They want to create a set of statewide business guidelines that every single dispensary will be required to follow before applying for licensing.
How To Protect Michigan Medical Marijuana Dispensaries And Patients
While closing dispensaries is a far from perfect option, the hope is they would only be closed for the remaining few months of 2017 before being able to re-apply for a state-approved operating license. Still, closing at all could have a lasting impact on many of Michigan’s dispensaries. Being out of business would be a pain itself, but some dispensaries are worried that the reapplication process may unfairly favor new business applications rather than those from marijuana dispensaries that have already been operating for years. A spokesman for Michigan’s Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Department addressed those concerns by saying that the board will work hard to “ensure that patients are protected and the delivery of services to licensees are fair and efficient.”
The board’s decision will be released later today, but whatever the result of their vote, the future for the Michigan medical marijuana program looks bright. Even if marijuana dispensaries were to close for the remainder of 2017, they will reopen to begin 2018 with greater oversight. The hopes are that new guidelines and regulations that better appeal to the state of Michigan’s over 200,000 medical marijuana patients.
Lane is based in Southern California and is a content curator for Medical Marijuana 411. He focuses his research into finding informative stories that can help medical marijuana patients better understand their diverse medicine.