Since the new year has began, I personally have already had to switch dispensaries that I was using due to the new medical marijuana regulations coming into effect. Starting December 15th of last year, the state began accepting applications for the various types of businesses including: cultivation, processing, transportation, and retail shops. Retail dispensaries that were operating for years without any problems with local ordinances are now receiving letters ordering them to shut down until they are approved for a new license. According to the Detroit Free Press, over 200 dispensaries in the state have been sent these cease and desist letters.
While the Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs claims that the availability of medicine will be unaffected for patients, there are other consequences to this move. Although profitable, opening a dispensary demands an enormous amount of overhead and variable costs. All of these business owners who had invested money in both their property as well as the medicine they had in stock, are going to lose patients during the temporary to permanent closure. This is not right, and if they didn’t want them operating they shouldn’t have ever been given permission. Yes they technically were unregulated businesses, but that was how the system had forced them to operate for years under the protection of local ordinances. Some of these businesses in the past had even gone the lengths of relocating in order to comply with the ridiculous zoning requirements imposed by the city of Detroit. Even playing by the rules doesn’t always guarantee protection of your business in this industry. This transition period of awarding licenses to applicants is supposed to end in June, but at it’s current pace many in the industry are expecting delays.
There are many different opinions on whether this regulation is a good thing for the cannabis community or not. The regulation establishes new taxes for those using it for medical purposes. It also will make a system to track a plants progress from seed form to sale and ensure all products are only produced by licensed commercial cultivators. Personally, I think regulation is not a good thing and it should be left to the already existing large community of cultivators who produce much higher quality cannabis on a small scale. The patient- caregiver system that was established in 2008 when medical cannabis passed in Michigan, is still the backbone of the industry. Dispensaries that are currently existing get their medicine from caregivers or patients, not some 3000 plant facility that machine trims commercial quality bud. It seems inevitable that with regulation small time grows will be undercut by those growing on a large scale.
The dispensary that I choose to visit now for my concentrate and edible needs, is much larger then other collectives I had been a member at. The inventory selection is much larger as well as a higher number of employees working. Larger dispensaries seems to be the trend as the number of operating dispensaries continues to be squeezed by the state government. To this day it remains a risky business plan to enter the “not quite regulated” medical marijuana industry in Michigan. For those looking to get into the trade, it would be best to apply for one of the new licenses and then wait before trying to set up shop during this uncertain time.