Court Orders Closure Of All Michigan Marijuana Dispensaries

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By Catelyn Snow


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" I want all dispensaries to pass the grandma test. Your grandma should feel safe in there. "
- State Congressman Mike Callton (R-MI)

On February 8, citing public nuisance laws, the Michigan State Supreme Court ruled that medical marijuana dispensaries in the state of Michigan, which had previously voted to allow medical marijuana, must close, leaving a huge number of legal medical marijuana patients without many options for legally procuring their medicine.

The Supreme Court could not outlaw medical marijuana outright because the voters had chosen it, but they could pass a ruling that “has been widely interpreted to make dispensaries illegal,” which is the situation that Michigan’s medical MJ users find themselves in today.

Without a storefront dispensary, many patients find themselves out in the cold, with nowhere to buy their medication and no means to grow their own.

"It's cost-prohibitive to grow this yourself, and it's labor intensive," said Alec McKelvey Jr., a state-registered patient who uses marijuana to fight the side effects of cancer treatments. "You have to spend hundreds of dollars on equipment and really know what you're doing to get a quality plant that has no parasites or mold -- that would make my health worse."

Dispensaries Closing Up Shop

After the passing of 2008’s Proposal 1, which legalized medical marijuana, a relatively lucrative, yet somewhat disorganized group of dispensaries began to open, many of which were well-run, clean, friendly and professional businesses.

The entrepreneurs who ran these above-board dispensaries were done a complete disservice by those who chose to have shadily-run, dishonest dispensaries which, of course, received the bulk of the attention from both the media and the law.

However, little was done to differentiate between the classy caregivers and the shady ones, so the Supreme Court chose to make all dispensaries illegal.

This move was quickly seized upon by Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, who is sending out letters this week to all dispensaries, informing them of the new laws.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette


Likely those Schuette letters will mostly go unread, as dispensary owners have generally already chosen to close up shop before getting raided. Other caregiving businesses have gone word-of-mouth, with no official business name or location. Why are politicians purposely making this industry more shady when we are trying to do things legally?

Is Local Control The Answer?

At least a couple of politicians would rather see dispensaries come back above ground. MI State Congressmen, Republican Mike Callton, is spearheading a bill that would put the decision regarding whether to allow medical marijuana dispensaries into the hands of local governments, who could regulate the industry as they see fit. Either way, it would re-open dispensaries for discussion, now that the Supreme Court has essentially rendered the topic "closed."

State Congressman Mike Callton (R-MI)

"This will give control back to local government -- to zone these centers and to say how many they want," said Robin Schneider, a lobbyist for the National Patient Rights Association, a coalition of dispensary and compassion club owners and former state-registered caregiver. 

"Communities can say, 'Do we want this happening in a (residential) neighborhood or in a designated commercial or industrial district?' Or, 'we don't want this happening right next to our schools,' "

Callton, a licensed Chiropractor as well as legislator, sees medical marijuana as what it is -- a health issue. He feels that it should be available to everyone who it can help, and that it should also be regulated enough to make sure that the product is safe for the patient, and that dispensaries are classy joints (no pun intended).

"I want all dispensaries to pass the grandma test. “ He said. “Your grandma should feel safe in there."

This kind of thinking also makes dispensaries safe for young women and vendors as well, so a well-run dispensary is a winning situation all around. However, even the politicians who support the so called “dispensary bill” (let’s at least give it a name, shall we?) agree that it is unlikely to pass.

District Attorney Schuette and his office have made it clear that they see no need to discuss the situation any further.

"The Michigan Supreme Court issued a straightforward ruling, and we see no immediate need for legislation at this time," spokeswoman Joy Yearout said when asked if she had heard about the new bill.

So, What Do MI Residents Do Until A Law Passes?

It will be up to the growers and patients to create their own network so that everyone gets the medication that they need, and growers can still afford to pay their electricity bills. When you find a responsible caregiver, keep him or her in your loop, and don't lose contact.

It's always great to have backup as well, but sticking to one main caregiver will establish a sort of friendship between you which can be mutually beneficial. 

There are positive signs, however, on the dispensary front. In addition to the Pro-Dispensary Bill’s Head Sponsor Mike Callton, the bill’s very first co-sponsor is another Republican, State Representative Tom McMillan.

“I’ve got friends who are legitimately helped my medical marijuana,” McMillan said. “There’s a new group of Republicans saying this “War on Drugs” has been a disaster. Eventually, we’ve got to step back and look at that.”


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