LANSING -- Medical marijuana clinics across Michigan shut their doors Wednesday as they weighed the potential legal risk of staying open.
"It's nerve-wracking to a lot of dispensary owners," says Matthew Taylor, part-owner of Compassionate Apothecary of Lansing on East Michigan Avenue.
The Court of Appeals ruled against Taylor and the Compassionate Apothecary of Mount Pleasant, which he also part-owns, arguing the business violates both the 2008 voter-approved Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and the state's public health code because it allows compensated patient-to-patient sales (CA takes up to a 20 percent cut of those transactions).
The ruling essentially restricts medical marijuana transactions to licensed caregivers, who can only serve five patients at a time. Medicinal pot advocates say that's far too restrictive, and will leave many patients in the lurch.
"This would effectively close down every single medical marijuana entity that I know of," Taylor says.
Attorney Jeffrey Hank represents dispensary owners. He expects a stay of enforcement on the ruling until Compassionate Apothecary can appeal to the state Supreme Court -- although that body is majority conservative and is unlikely to overturn the Court of Appeals' ruling.
In the meantime, law enforcement and county prosecutors are immediately free to go after any dispensary that allows patient-to-patient sales -- leaving owners with a tough decision.
"I imagine some dispensaries will stay open, and some will probably close, as they determine whether or not the risk is worth staying open, and whether or not the opinion actually applies to them," Hank says.
State Attorney General Bill Schuette, who lobbied hard for this decision, released a statement Wednesday praising the decision, calling it a "huge victory for public safety and Michigan communities struggling with an invasion of pot shops."
In the end, this issue will likely come to the state legislature. It's scheduled to revisit the Medical Marijuana Act this fall, with the focus expected to center around how best to distribute the drug.