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Patient Access Dwindles in Michigan After Closure of More Than 70 Unlicensed Medical Marijuana Dispensaries

Posted on January 4, 2019 at 3:05 PM

Melissa Schiller

Michigan forced more than 70 unlicensed medical marijuana dispensaries to close after a state-issued Dec. 31 licensing deadline, severing many patients’ access to their medication.The businesses had to apply for state licenses by Feb. 15, 2018 and have remained open under emergency rules that allowed them to temporarily operate while awaiting state licenses. However, permanent rules that took effect Dec. 1 did not include provisions for temporary operations, said Matthew Abel, attorney with Cannabis Counsel, P.L.C., a boutique marijuana law firm in Detroit, and executive director for Michigan NORML. Temporary operators faced an ultimatum—get licensed by Dec. 31 or shut down.“They can proceed with the licensing process, assuming that [they began] the licensing process by last February,” Abel said.Michigan’s new governor, Gretchen Whitmer, took office Jan. 1 and appointed a new director for the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA), the licensing and regulatory body for the state’s cannabis industry.“It’s possible that they might put in place some new emergency rules, but I don’t see that happening really,” Abel said. “The state needs to expedite the consideration of the applications, … and maybe they should consider those temporary operators first—let them jump the queue, as it were, to be first in line. But other people who completed their applications earlier and who have never opened would object to that. We just need the state to be more aggressive in considering the applications, and frankly, the Republicans who were in charge, in my opinion, were slow-pedaling this the whole licensing process.”The state will hold its next monthly licensing board meeting Jan. 16, where it will presumably issue more licenses, Abel added.And although the licensing process will continue, patients who have been using dispensaries that have been shut down will likely revert to the illicit market for their medicine, he said. This presents obvious safety concerns, Abel added—under the new regulations, all products sold at licensed dispensaries must be lab tested, but products sold outside the regulated market are largely untested and unlabeled.“The good part is that everything will be lab tested,” Abel said. “The bad part is there aren’t that many dispensaries licensed yet. I’m thinking the number’s around 50. So, there are more closed than open. It certainly wasn’t a...................


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