By Chris Walsh
A full-on disaster is brewing in Michigan, with a recent court ruling threatening to sink the state’s medical marijuana industry.
The ruling essentially makes it illegal for businesses to sell pot, meaning the estimated 300 to 400 dispensaries currently operating in Michigan will have to close or face the possibility of raids and criminal prosecution.
The impact of the ruling was immediate. Two dispensaries were raided just after the ruling, and many medical marijuana centers shut their doors or stopped selling weed until they get more clarification about how this is going to play out.
An appeal is possible, and some say likely. There’s also a ton of ambiguity tied to the ruling, and some non-profit dispensaries that rely on donations are staying open, figuring they can make a legal case for doing so.
But it doesn’t look good for dispensaries and related businesses at this point.
What’s happening in Michigan highlights just how quickly things can change in the medical marijuana industry, and it should serve as a wake-up call to dispensaries in other states that have been lulled into a false sense of security. Rules and regulations can change very quickly, as we’ve seen not only in Michigan but also in cities across the country that have banned pot dispensaries despite state laws allowing medical marijuana sales.
The best advice we can give is to make sure you have your finger on the pulse of the political scene in your city and state. You need to know what’s coming down the pipeline. If there’s a shift in the winds of public opinion or a political movement to ban dispensaries, you should start preparing professionally and emotionally for the worst-case scenario. These types of rulings hurt unprepared dispensary owners the most, as owners are left with thousands in debt and no job.
One final thought: Colorado dispensary owners should thank their lucky stars. The whole mess in Michigan is mostly the result of the state’s vague medical marijuana laws, which don’t cover dispensaries or outline how patients can legally get their weed. I’ve heard a lot of complaints over the past few months about how burdensome it is to operate a pot dispensary in Colorado, where the marijuana industry is highly regulated. But – and I’ve stated this numerous times before – those strict regulations are exactly what could prevent a situation similar to the one in Michigan from playing out in Colorado.
Chris Walsh is the editor of Medical Marijuana Business Daily