Michigan’s emergency rules governing medical marijuana got tweaked again Monday, with the state imposing a Halloween deadline for dispensaries to either get a state license or be forced to shut down.
That’s six weeks before the Dec. 15 deadline that regulators designated two weeks ago after a Court of Claims judge overruled the state’s plan to treat two different classes of dispensaries differently.
The moving target for licensure or closure has been a roller coaster for the 206 dispensaries that have been operating with approval from their local communities, but still haven’t gotten a state license.
The first deadline was June 15 for dispensaries to get a license or shut down. But the state didn’t approve the first dispensary license until July 12, so the June deadline was extended to Sept. 15.
The state was firm that the Sept. 15 deadline was the cutoff for all of the dispensaries to shut down until Judge Stephen Borrello overruled a plan to make 98 dispensariesthat hadn’t turned in completed applications to close on Sept. 15, but allow 106 retail shops that had turned in all steps of their application, which included building plans as well as community approval, to stay open until Dec. 15.
The state offered little explanation for its change of plans, other than to say that 19 dispensaries have been approved for a license and a “robust agenda” for the state’s licensing board on Oct. 18 will likely approve more dispensaries.
“There are already 19 provisioning centers (dispensaries) licensed and we expect that number to grow even higher,” said David Harns, spokesman for the state Department of Licensing and Regulation. “The pace of approvals and denials will pick up and there will be enough facilities open to serve the needs of the patient population in Michigan.”
Denise Pollicella, the Howell attorney who sued the state to stop the Sept. 15 deadline, said the new Oct. 31 date seems like “sour grapes” on the part of the state bureaucracy that wants to get the marijuana industry up and operating sooner rather than later.
“I don’t know what it is about these folks that 45 more days is such a big deal,” she said. “Respectfully, the board has been consistent in its lack of consistency.”
The new rules come as the state is trying to transition from the medical marijuana market that was born after voters legalized weed for medical use in 2008 to an industry that is regulated and taxed by the state. The old market was made up of caregivers who could grow up to 12 plants for each of five patients as well as themselves. There was little, if any, oversight of the caregiver-model of medical marijuana.
The new regulated market is much more expensive for business owners and creates five classes of licenses for growers, processors, testing facilities, transporters and dispensaries. Once licensed, the owners have to come up with a $48,000 regulatory assessment to the state, pay city fees, get their products tested under a more stringent set of state guidelines, and pay a 3 percent tax on the gross receipts of the dispensary as well as the state’s 6 percent sales tax.
The dispensaries that haven’t gotten a license yet have been able to operate without much of the increased costs imposed by state regulations.
The state has approved licenses for 37 applicants including seven growers, four processors, 19 dispensaries, three secure transporters and four testing facilities. The state has received 702 applications and, in addition to the licenses approved, 72 applicants have been given preliminary approval for a license.