Marijuana and Cannabis News

Many Michigan Marijuana Dispensaries Close After Ruling
By Steve Elliott ~alapoet~ in Dispensaries, News
Friday, August 26, 2011 at 11:20 am
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Photo: Melanie Maxwell/Detroit Free Press
Ann Arbor residents Jaymz Edmonds, left, and T.J. Rice protest outside the OM of Medicine marijuana dispensary Thursday in Ann Arbor after a police raid of the nearby A2 Go Green dispensary.
Raids, Closings Leave Medical Marijuana Patients Hurting

Many medical marijuana dispensaries in Michigan closed their doors on Thursday following a Court of Appeals ruling.

"It would be dangerous to operate with the specter of a criminal case hanging over our head," said John Lewis, lawyer for Compassionate Apothecary in Mt. Pleasant, the center of the controversy, reports the Detroit Free Press.

Some Ann Arbor area activists sought to regroup at a rally Thursday night, reports Kyle Feldscher at AnnArbor.com.

About 150 medical marijuana supporters came to Live at PJ's in Ann Arbor in an attempt to rally their community, only hours after two dispensaries were raided by police.

Chuck Ream, a local medical marijuana activist whose dispensary, MedMar A2 Compassionate Health Care, was raided by police Thursday morning, gave a passionate speech to the crowd, pointing to the long history of medicinal use of cannabis.

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Photo: Melanie Maxwell/AnnArbor.com
Erin Angner of Redford licks an envelope as Michelle Mata of Ypsilanti looks on after the pair signed a letter of concern to send to their state representative during a rally at "Live At PJ's" on Thursday.
​"Your great-great-grandmother had no problem getting cannabis and there were many different uses for it," Ream said.

A unanimous panel of the Michigan Court of Appeals on Tuesday ruled that the dispensary's business model of charging clients a fee to store marijuana that could be sold to any registered patient was illegal. The ruling is seen as a major blow to the medical marijuana industry and patients in Michigan.

According to the Free Press, Richard Celmer, a 46-year-old stomach cancer patient in Chesterfield Township, went without marijuana to ease the pain Thursday because Big Daddy's dispensary in the township stopped selling medicinal cannabis on Wednesday.

Cellmer uses the dispensary when his regular caregiver can't meet his needs. "When I do need medicine, this is where I come," Cellmer said.

Four pounds of marijuana and medicated edibles were loaded into a black SUV while employees and an owner of the MedMar dispensary were led away Thursday in handcuffs.

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Photo: Lon Horwedel/AnnArbor.com
Chuck Ream, president of MedMar A2 Compassionate Health Care, which was raided by police Thursday morning
​"We didn't get a letter -- we got a bunch of agents," said Ream, president of the dispensary, which was targeted in a raid after the far-reaching court ruling late Tuesday against dispensaries.

About 750 patients who come to his business for their marijuana are now without their medicine, according to Ream.

"Everyone who gets sick doesn't have an old hippie to grow marijuana," Ream said.

County prosecutors and dispensaries around Michigan responded to the ruling and the warnings from state Attorney General Bill Schuette that law enforcement would now be going after the shops.

Many of the businesses shut down marijuana sales as a precaution.

"I have a building full of patients today," said Rick Ferris, president of the Michigan Association of Compassionate Centers, referring to Big Daddy's in Chesterfield Township, where people can still get paraphernalia and growing supplies, but no longer marijuana itself. "My business is open, except in that regard."

The company oversees five dispensaries in southeast Michigan.

Others, including 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti, decided their business model would withstand the legal tests. Owner Jamie Lowell runs the center as a nonprofit, fee-based membership club relying on donations.

"We're still trying to digest the implications of this ruling," Lowell said. "We're not convinced that it completely eliminates dispensaries."

Joshua Devault of the Treecity Health Collective said it is important for the community to show their representatives that dispensaries have a purpose -- safe access to medicine for patients who might not be able to grow their own marijuana.

"It's very hard to grow the type of medicine that collectives can have," Devault said. "It's that power that we have as a group collective, to be able to dispense that kind of medicine to patients that really need it."

Devault said that elderly people often come to the collective looking for medical marijuana. He said without the dispensaries, patients like them would not know how to properly use the medicine, or might not be able to get it at all.

The exact "guidelines" the dispensaries had supposedly violated were unclear as of Thursday. Many activists maintain that there are no actual guidelines set out by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act.

The most important thing right now is for medical marijuana supporters to have a sense of community among themselves, said T.J. Rice, a friend of Ream's who ran a dispensary that was raided in March 2010 and had felony drug charges brought against him a year later.

Rice said his goal is to form an effort that will see marijuana totally legalized, but in the meantime it's important for patients, caregivers and supporters to stick together.

"We've got a long road ahead of us," Rice said.

Attorney General Schuette will speak to prosecutors about the court decision this weekend on Mackinac Island, according to spokeswoman Joy Yearout. The focus of the meeting sounds like an attack plan: How to prosecute dispensary operators using a "nuisance-abatement" clause.

Prosecutor Larry Burdick made his intentions clear in Isabella County, according to Brandon McQueen, co-owner of Compassionate Apothecary.

"You must immediately cease such operations," McQueen read from a letter Burdick's office sent Wednesday to at least six dispensaries.

The case that led to the appellate court ruling began at the Mt. Pleasant dispensary. The circuit court ruled that the business didn't violate the law Michigan voters overwhelmingly approved -- with 63 percent of the vote -- in 2008.

Co-owner Matthew Taylor said the store had stopped selling marijuana, but that he and McQueen are preparing an appeal to the Michigan Supreme Court.

Matthew Newburg, who will be their attorney, said he advised Lansing-area clients to close up "until the Supreme Court issues a different opinion or there is new legislation."

Along Michigan Avenue in Lansing on Wednesday, many dispensaries were closed, reports the Lansing State Journal.

"Clarifications" to the voter-approved 2008 medic al marijuana law will be submitted in the fall legislative session, according to the Free Press.


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