Lansing — A member of a state board charged with creating new rules for the virtually unregulated medical marijuana industry on Monday called for all existing dispensaries to be shuttered until official licenses can be doled out.
But the board tabled the issue until the Bureau of Medical Marijuana Regulation and the office of Attorney General Bill Schuette can weigh in after retired State Police sergeant Donald Bailey raised the idea.
Anxiety quickly rippled through the board’s second public hearing as people lined up to express fear and anger that they would have to resort to the black market to find medical marijuana.
A woman, saying she uses medical marijuana to treat seizures, said she feared her condition would worsen. A man whose preteen son takes it for the same reason expressed an identical woe, while others with ailments of all kinds said they wouldn’t be able to find treatment anymore.
“I use it to treat my epilepsy because nothing else (works) and I’m still having seizures daily,” one unidentified woman said. “What is going to happen to us -- the ones who rely on it?”
Jason Moon, a spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, declined to say whether the board or the department has the authority to shut dispensaries.
“The Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation will thoroughly review the recommendations and discussion from the board, and consult with the Attorney General's office before any action is taken,” Moon said in an email.
In the meantime, the department has the power to implement “emergency rules” to “protect the safety of Michiganders and to ensure laws are administered fairly and efficiently,” he said.
Medical marijuana patients and industry officials are awaiting the opportunity to submit applications for dispensary licenses beginning Dec. 15. The deadline is fueling fear that there could be a four-month lag or longer before existing patients could get medical pot again.
At the first meeting in June, dozens of people expressed their concerns with unclear current and future medical marijuana rules. Voters legalized it for medical use in a 2008 referendum.
Bailey – who has declined to share his personal feelings about medical marijuana – has said he believes the state’s current medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal. But he said his goal is to create regulations that treat marijuana like medicine.
Commerce Township Supervisor David Scott, who called dispensaries “nothing but organized crime” in a comment Monday, said he was frustrated such businesses have been allowed to operate under the radar for so long.
“They all do it illegally, they all do it clandestinely,” Scott said. “We’re experiencing robberies where people are coming in the dark of night, kicking in the door and robbing … grow operations that are unsupervised and illegal.”
He said he doesn’t oppose medical marijuana, but wants it regulated.
“We’re trying to play a game and no one knows what the rules are,” he said.