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Tuesday, September 26, 2017


On September 8, the third meeting  of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board (MMLB) took place just outside Lansing. Two mean spirited and ill advised proposals to shut down all medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan by September 15, and deny state licenses to those who refused were shot down. 

These proposals emanated from retired narcotics cop Donald Bailey and his colleague, former cannabis lobbyist and Michigan House Speaker Rick Johnson. These gentlemen failed to get what they wanted at the August 21st meeting, when the full Board decided "further information' was needed from higher authorities, prior to issuing any special order.

The matter was settled in dramatic fashion before the September 8 meeting even began.  The "Michigan Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Division", commonly known as LARA,  backed by the Office of the Michigan Attorney General, gave a firm no to Bailey and Johnson's agenda.

LARA declared in so many words that dispensaries in operation after December 15 could be shut down by the cops.( December 15 is the day the MMMLB has the authority to issue licenses.) In addition, those places that did not close, could "potentially" jeopardize their chances of getting a state license from the MMMLB down the road.

Bailey and Johnson did not like the LARA  opinion one bit. They tried to persuade their fellow Board members  Nicole Cover, David LaMontaine and Vivian Pickard to vote to overrule LARA and the Attorney General. The trio refused to play ball. No vote was taken and by default, LARA's ruling prevailed. Bailey then declared that no matter what LARA said "my deadline is September 15". Bailey's statement was echoed by Johnson who declared he would "find it very difficult" to vote to grant a license to any dispensary which did not shut down by December 15th.

So what does all this mean in the real world?

Perhaps the most balanced, in depth coverage of the matter was provided by the venerable, long running weekly political TV show "Off the Record" (OTR)

OTR is considered a must see broadcast by the political class and political junkies across the state. Hosted by Tim Skubick, the show emgages the most hardened, and knowledgeable members of the Lansing press corps. The OTR panel format is to discuss the latest hot news stories of the week and grill prominent guests about what they are up to.

The OTR story for the week of September 8, was Bailey and Johnson's failed putsch to shut down all dispensaries in Michigan; under the guise of fair play and punishing businesses that have failed to follow the law in the past.

The OTR panel that week was composed of Mr. Skubick, Kathy Gray from the Detroit Free Press,
 Kyle Mellin, editor of "Michigan Information and Research Services" (MIRS) and Zack Gorchow from "Gongwer News Service."

With a few variations on the theme, the panel concluded there was no mortal danger facing current medical cannabis patients or even the dispensaries now serving them

Here is the logic as I see it, co mingled with observations from the OTR panel.

One, the reality NOW, is the Attorney General or a county prosecutor anywhere in Michigan, can  bust dispensaries anytime they want. They can do so with the full backing of the Judiciary. However, in certain counties like Wayne, Washtenaw, Gennessee, Ingham and Grand Traverse, prosecutors have had other things to do with their resources then shuttering dispensaries. Unfortunately this is not the case in counties like Oakland, Kent, Berrien and many parts of rural northern Michigan. Cops and prosecutors have been very aggressive in shutting down facilities and charging their operators as criminals under state law in those places

Will the current status quo magically change anywhere in Michigan in the near term after December 15? That is highly unlikely. However, down the road, when licenses are issued,and the system is up and running,, the specter of a crack down on unlicensed facilities increases geometrically. This is because state licensed dispensaries will eventually decide they do not want competition from unlicensed shops. They will take legal action to force these competitors to close, and pressure prosecutors and local municipalities to get tough and really enforce the law

Cutting to the chase, it is highly unlikely any patient will ever be cut off from their medicine thanks to LARA taking charge.

Will dispensaries that do not shut down by December 15 be denied a state license simply for staying open? The answer to that question is a pretty firm no.

The words used by LARA in its pronouncement are very critical. They clearly stated there could only be "potential" problems for these facilities

What does that mean? It means the dispensaries in question will not get a yes vote from MMMLB members Johnson and Bailey. Fortunately Bailey and Johnson's sentiments are not shared by the board majority, composed of Cover, LaMontaine and Pickard. 

There are a million stories in the naked city, but this one is real simple in the here and now.