Pubdate: Wed, 27 Sep 2017
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2017 Detroit Free Press
Author: Kathleen Gray


Medical marijuana dispensaries would be allowed to stay open while the
state decides who will get a license for the lucrative cannabis
business under a pair of bills to be introduced in the state

Sen. David Knezek, D-Dearborn Heights, and Rep. Yousef Rabhi, D-Ann
Arbor, will introduce the bills in the Senate and House this week to
counteract an advisory by the state to dispensaries that they should
close before Dec. 15 or risk their chances at getting a license.

"It became very apparent that this was never the intention of the
Legislature and we need to do something to ensure that people have
safe and accessible medicine," Knezek said. "We don't want to force
patients back to the underground, where products can be dangerous."

Applications for the five categories of licenses -- for growers,
processors, testers, dispensaries and transporters -- will be
available from the state on Dec. 15. And the Michigan Medical
Marijuana Licensing Board will begin giving out licenses during the
first quarter of 2018. To start with a fresh slate, the state
Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs advised the
dispensaries operating in Michigan -- several hundred, including more
than 70 in Detroit -- to close by Dec. 15.

If they didn't, LARA said, the dispensaries, which have been permitted
by the communities where they operate, could risk being shut down by
law enforcement for operating without a state license or jeopardize
their chances to get a license from the state.

Some dispensaries have already voluntarily shut down and others plan
to by Dec. 15, leaving their customers, who carry medical marijuana
cards to treat a variety of ailments, without a source for the product.

The advisory by LARA cause an uproar at the last Licensing Board
meeting, where dozens of medical marijuana patients, caregivers and
dispensary owners blasted the decision.

LARA spokesman David Harns said the department is in the process of
reviewing the legislation and declined to comment on what impact it
might have.

At a press conference Wednesday, Knezek and Rabhi were joined by
medical marijuana patients, some whose only access to medical
marijuana is from a dispensary.

Justin Nichols, an Army veteran from Plymouth, said he is both a
medical marijuana cardholder and caregiver and visits dispensaries in
Detroit to get his medicinal weed for pain, PTSD and anxiety. While he
has access to his own marijuana, he also uses the dispensaries.

"And I think about the veterans who are alone, who could be using
dispensaries," he said. "I can only imagine how frustrating it would
be to be in a state where you have access and then it's ripped away
after changing your life in a positive way."

Knezek said he's hopeful the bills will get a quick hearing and

"We're still working with all the stakeholders to make sure everyone
has the ability to voice their opinions and concerns," he said.

The bills would allow dispensaries that are still operating on Dec. 15
to put in an application for a medical marijuana license and stay open
until the board decides one way or the other.

"If they decide your application is denied, you'll have to shut down,"
Knezek said. "We're not going to get involved in that decision."
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