Michigan to pot shops: Close by Dec. 15 or risk licensure

BATH TOWNSHIP, Mich. (AP) — The state of Michigan on Wednesday gave medical marijuana businesses until Dec. 15 to close or potentially risk not obtaining a license under a new regulatory system aimed at increasing oversight and imposing new taxes on the industry.

The decision means registered patients will have to grow their own pot or obtain it from caregivers — as allowed for under existing law — until the state issues the licenses, likely in the first quarter of next year. It will accept license applications starting Dec. 15.

After learning of the decision, a new state licensing board dropped a member’s proposal to tell shops they would not get a license if they stayed open beyond this Friday — which had been blasted by patients, shop owners and others. They expressed concern, however, with the new deadline as well, questioning how some patients will buy their marijuana.

The dispensaries — which are not explicitly addressed under a 2008 voter-approved medical marijuana laws — have gone unchecked in some municipalities and have been blocked in others under a Michigan Supreme Court ruling that questioned their legality.

A five-tiered licensing system is being developed under a 2016 law that further regulates medical marijuana. It will impose a new tax and establish licenses to grow, process, sell, transport or test marijuana.

Andrew Brisbo, director of the state’s medical marijuana bureau, said dispensaries still open after Dec. 15 will face a “potential impediment to licensure.” Three months affords enough time for existing operations to wind down their affairs and for patients to connect with caregivers, he said.

“The department will not shut down facilities,” Brisbo said. “However, continued operation is a business risk as they may be shut down by law enforcement or denied licensure.”

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