State board will find out if it has the authority to shut down medical marijuana dispensaries

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The fate of medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan hangs in the balance today. A marijuana licensing board will meet at noon in Bath Township to discuss and likely vote on a proposal by a former state police sergeant to shut down all dispensaries across the state by September 15.

The board will receive guidance on its authority to close dispensaries until the state begins issuing licenses under a new regulatory system.

Some board members expressed a desire to shut the shops at a meeting last month, sparking concerns from patients and others. The board will hear from the state's Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation, which has been consulting with the state attorney general's office.

Starting in mid-December, medical marijuana businesses will be able to apply for licenses to operate. But some board members say existing dispensaries, many of which have been open for years, are illegal under a Michigan Supreme Court ruling and should be closed until licensing begins.

Board member and retired Michigan State Police sergeant Donald Bailey says dispensaries are in violation of the state medical marijuana act. In 2013, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled dispensaries were illegal under Michigan's medical marijuana law, although some cities and townships have ordinances that allow for the shops.

Bailey proposed that if dispensaries did not close by Sept. 15, they would not be eligible for licenses under the new dispensary licensing system. On December 15, the board will begin accepting applications for dispensaries to get licenses. A state law passed last year requires a new licensing system to be implemented.

If the board decides to close all dispensaries, patients who rely on medical marijuana for various ailments will not be able to purchase their pot. Many say they would be forced to turn to the black market for marijuana. Others say shutting down the dispensaries would mean a spike in crime. "It's not going to be good for the society as a whole, it's gonna bring the bad crime back" said patient Sarah Sanderson. "I feel that its going to make people turn to other ways and means to get their medication, and I don't feel like its going to benefit anybody in this culture or society right now" Sanderson said.

Some medical marijuana dispensaries in the Detroit area closed Monday before today's meeting as a preemptive measure. Others are waiting to see what happens. The president of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association says shutting down the dispensaries would be a big step backwards for patients' rights.

The board meeting is at noon at Hawk Hollow Golf Club, 15101 Chandler Road, Bath. It is open to the public and there will be public comment allowed.

This is a breaking news story. WILX News 10 is working to get more details on this story, and will provide updates as more information becomes available.

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