Court puts the lid on medical marijuana dispensaries
GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — It looks like the state Court of Appeals has pounded another nail into the coffin of marijuana dispensaries in Michigan.
A pair of West Michigan men who faced little to no jail time after they reached plea deals for distributing medical marijuana appealed their cases, which took a circuitous route through court system.
The result is the new decision severely limiting how marijuana can be obtained under the voter-approved Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.
“It’s confusing, even just speaking it, you go, ‘Well, wait a minute, this doesn’t make any sense,” said Matt Hoffmann, a self-described expert in the medical marijuana industry.
Under the ruling, it appears that the only way that medical marijuana patients can get their weed is by either growing it themselves or getting it from an approved caregiver who can serve no more than five patients.
>>PDF: The court’s ruling
It’s a blow to dispensaries in Michigan, which were already operating under a shadowy system of enforcement that varies from one county to another. In Kent County, for example, dispensaries have been the subjects of raids and prosecutions that have all but eliminated them. But in Ingham County, the attitude is to allow them to operate until there is clear direction from the legislature or judiciary.
Kent County Assistant Prosecutor Gary A. Moore, who represented the county in the appeal, said there is nothing in Michigan’s act that allows for dispensaries.
Hoffman, who has experience in the medical marijuana industry, said the new limits do not create a reliable or financially sustainable way to get medical marijuana to patients who are licensed to get it.
“Yeah, it’s unfortunate to see the rights be eroded in the way they are,” Hoffman said.
Hoffman said it’s important to have people who know what they are doing grow and distribute the marijuana.
“People can know what they’re getting and know it’s coming from a reliable source and when they find something that works for them — that cures their insomnia or makes their back stop hurting or whatever — that when they come in next week it’s going to be the same,” he said.
He said the ruling could result in people turning to the traditional market for marijuana: illegal sales.
“I don’t think that’s the intention of the act, to make people who are law-abiding citizens break the law to access something the law said they could access,” Hoffman said.
The men involved in the case can still ask the Michigan Supreme Court to examine the case again and they probably will — but it is unlikely Court of Appeals’ decision will be overturned.
State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, has introduced a bill that would create regulation and taxation for medical marijuana exchanges. That bill sailed through the Michigan House of Representatives and is now before a Senate committee.
Meanwhile, efforts to put the legalization of marijuana on the ballot seem to have stalled out.
What this all adds up to is that despite the Appeals Court decision, the debate over marijuana in Michigan is far from settled.