Pot shop closes as state targets dispensaries
One medical marijuana dispensary in Detroit is shutting down in anticipation that a state board may decide to close existing shops after a board member called for the action until official licenses are issued.
A dispensary on 8 Mile Road called The Reef is closing after business hours on Sunday in the hope that the state will look favorably on its decision and grant it a license when they start being granted, according to a company press release.
“We would like to set a good example as we have done in the past with our municipal licensing,” a spokesman for The Reef said in a Friday statement. “We’re here for our patients, and we believe the board also is fighting to complete the licensing process as fast as possible so the patients can return to getting their medicine.”
Many in the medical marijuana industry fear the state will close existing dispensaries after its scheduled meeting on Tuesday. The agenda lists “existing medical marijuana facilities” for consideration after the board tabled the issue during the last meeting in late August.
Retired State Police sergeant and board member Donald Bailey said he believes all current dispensaries are illegal and has called for existing shops to be closed. The declaration, not echoed by other board members, led dozens of people to share their anxiety at the meeting about no longer finding medical marijuana.
The Reef is one of eight city-approved medical marijuana dispensaries in Detroit. Another 69 are in the process of getting approval and still operating, and 81 applications are pending, according to a city database.
A spokesman for The Reef says it just wants to make sure it’s complying with state law. Franklin Dohanyos, a publicist the business hired, said the spokesman wanted to remain anonymous given the nature of the business.
The spokesman said he’s not sure how long it will remain closed and was unsure of where its patients could go to get medical marijuana in the meantime.
“They’re probably gonna have to look elsewhere and I don’t know what that elsewhere means at this point,” the spokesman said.
Despite Bailey’s claim that current dispensaries are illegal, the state has allowed such businesses to operate under the radar since Michigan voters approved a referendum in 2008 to allow marijuana for medical use.
A spokesman for the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs previously declined to say whether the state Medical Marihuana Licensing Board or LARA have the authority to close them. But the department can issue “emergency rules.”
Matthew Abel, a criminal defense lawyer in Detroit who specializes in marijuana cases, said the board does not have the authority to shut down dispensaries.
“They don’t have that authority. This isn’t a matter of opinion,” he said. “They’re not a law enforcement body.”
Jessica Spiro, another medical marijuana lawyer in Bloomfield Hills, said patients everywhere are worried and don’t know what to expect next.
“It’s terrible what they’re doing to them,” Spiro said. “It’s the Wild Wild West out there. It’s all gray. We don’t know what they’re gonna do.”