It is pretty safe to say that since November of 2008 the topic of medical marijuana has been hot in Michigan. The passing of the Medical Marijuana Act has caused a major upheaval in the legal system and has raised a number of questions in various areas of the law.
One topic that has generated numerous questions is in regards to medical marijuana dispensaries. I am contacted frequently by various individuals who essentially ask the same questions: Can I open a dispensary? What do I need to do now to put myself in a position to open a dispensary if they become legal? What legally could happen if I get caught running a dispensary? I have been to dispensaries, how is that possible if they are illegal?
The long and the short of the situation are very simple: for the time being, in the state of Michigan, dispensaries are illegal. If you are prosecuted for running a dispensary you will be charged with the same crimes as individuals growing and/or distributing marijuana outside of the medical marijuana industry.
So why are there some dispensaries in Michigan? The answer is because not all municipalities are enforcing this rule. Crimes generally are prosecuted by local governments – counties, cities, townships, etc. Some local governments are choosing not to enforce laws against dispensaries; this, however, does not make dispensaries legal in those localities.
The laws pertaining to medical marijuana have been, and continue to be, in flux. Just because this is the status of the law today, does not mean this will be the law or its applicability tomorrow. We routinely review the law and recent court decisions to best advise individuals about their rights when it comes to operating medical marijuana dispensaries.