Michigan Court opinion may impact local medical marijuana dispensaries

An opinion last week from the State of Michigan Court of Appeals ruling an Isabella County medical marijuana dispensary illegal is raising concern for two local dispensaries. Great Lakes Holistic, located at 1276 N. State Road, and The Healing Club, located at 6981 Blue Water Highway, are concerned they will not be able to help medical marijuana, card-carrying members based on the ruling. “It’s been devastating,” said Kim Logan, of Great Lake Holistic. “(Patients) have to go to the street, places that look shady and most do not have caregivers.”

Great Lake Holistic has two locations, one in Ionia and the other in St. Louis, Mich. With the ruling, the St. Louis location had to stop dispensing medical marijuana when it received a letter from the local prosecutor saying cease and desist. Ionia County Prosecutor Ron Schafer explained that the court of appeals ruling prohibits the sale of medical marijuana from patient-to-patient, and that dispensaries are prohibited under the ruling. “I do not believe any dispensary is operating legally from that opinion, and we will be addressing those issues quickly as a result of that opinion,” said Schafer. “The only way to assist (a patient) is you have to be their primary caregiver.”

Schafer is currently not sending out cease and desist orders to the two dispensaries in Ionia County, but is waiting for further information regarding the opinion. Doyle Melton, with the Healing Club, said that the business model of his location and Great Lake Holistic is completely different from the dispensary in Isabella County. He explained that the Isabella County dispensary was using a “locker system.” Caregivers would use the store’s location to store excess medical marijuana, and it would then be sold to card-carrying members and the dispensary would receive commission from the sale.

“This has raised a very big issue,” said Melton. “They are taking these places away that offer patients a safe choice. We are a non-profit, donation based business. We are the model of what (dispensaries) should be when the laws come together.” Schafer said he thinks that the way dispensaries work are different than what the voters had in mind when the law was voted on in 2008. “It’s not what the voters voted for,” said Schafer. “More than 100,000 people have a medical marijuana card, and the top two reasons are chronic pain and nausea. That is not what the people voted for. This appeal brings sanity to the issue.”

Great Lakes Holistic partners explained that its St. Louis location is information only now after receiving the cease and desist letter from the prosecutor, and the owners are glad that Schafer is waiting for more information to come before sending the Ionia location a notice. “Our patients are already complaining that they are not receiving quality product and they are paying too much (with the St. Louis location no longer offering medical marijuana),” said Wendy Ingalls, of Great Lakes Holistic. “Basically, it’s not even medicine, it’s not tested. It’s scary when they have to go to the street. They are finding out it’s not what it is suppose to be.”

The main concern for the dispensaries in Ionia County that have been following the law, are concerned that their patients will be forced to either grow their own, which would be hard for some patients, or be forced to use other, non safe methods. State Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville, toured through the Great Lakes Holistic and two other medical marijuana dispensaries, and said he thinks there has to be changes to the law and definitions. “It should be like a pharmacy, a clinic where it is professional,” said Callton. “If medical marijuana wants to be taken seriously as a drug, it needs to do that. I don’t think what is happening is what the voters intended. I think they intended the compassion and care for certain patients. What can they do and what can’t they do. The dispensary (Great Lakes Holistic) I talked to said they are seeking guidance, and they want to comply.”

Callton said that there are several main issues with the medical marijuana law. He said that the issues include people with felonies and should not be operating a dispensary; the law has to be cleaned up with a model for dispensaries; not allow “marijuana bars,” where patients gather to take the medicine together; and driving while on medical marijuana. “If marijuana is going to be a (legal) drug, there has to be qualification of how strong it is with prescription strength,” said Callton. “To move the science of it forward, there needs to be research done to see what doses are helpful. They location north (of Ionia) actually test for quality and consistency. “The concept of dispensaries is not what the voters passed, although the dispensary may be a better model of distribution if done correctly. As of now, it is really not what the voters passed.”

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