Since Michigan legalized medical marijuana in 2008, laws and regulations for the industry have been murky at best. The state has gone from having very loose laws for production and distribution to implementing new ones in more recent years. With having just passed full recreational legalization of the plant, it is no wonder that authorities are finally starting to close the doors of dispensaries operating in the former legal grey area. But, the issue has already forced over 70 dispensaries in the state to close.
“Right now we’ve got permanent rules that are going forward and temporary rules that have expired as of Dec. 15,” Attorney Devin Loker said.
Previously, the state had set a deadline of December 31st for unlicensed businesses to obtain a state license or be shut down with the possibility of being denied any future licensing. Since they had previously been allowed to operate under temporary emergency rules while applications were pending, some businesses attempted to fight this in court. But Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello dismissed the suit, leaving the end of the year deadline in place.
“It is very important for temporarily operating applicants to understand that any operation after Monday may be considered an impediment to licensure,” said David Harns, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs.
The state hopes that by shutting down temporary operations they will be able to more quickly establish a functioning regulated and taxed marijuana market, something the state has slowly been working toward for years. Currently, they have awarded 99 licenses to 52 dispensaries, 29 growers, 10 processors and four testing facilities and secure transporters. They have also pre-qualified 203 other businesses. However, it is still going to take time to go through all of those applications and moving forward, businesses with pending applications face denial for remaining open before being officially approved.
“We are temporarily going to shut down while we’re pursuing licensing.” said Mort Meisner, spokesman for the Reef.
Those whose applications were denied can fix their various issues/ errors and apply again – but until then, all of their sales must end for the time being. This leaves many patients who have been going to the same dispensary for many years without anywhere to go until they find a location that is approved and fully licensed. And, with only 52 dispensaries throughout the state, this could be hard to come by in some areas of Michigan. Hopefully all of this will ensure a smoother transition as the state finally incorporates their taxed and regulated commercial cannabis industry.