Michigan regulators have ordered the closure of 210 dispensaries and other medical marijuana businesses that failed to apply for a state license by a mid-February deadline.
The state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs disclosed the figure Thursday, two weeks after it began issuing cease-and-desist letters. More than 150 of the shops are in Detroit.
Michigan is in the process of licensing marijuana businesses under a law enacted in 2016.
Emergency rules issued in December allow businesses to stay open while seeking a license if they have the approval of their local community. But if they have not applied as of Feb. 15 or their municipality have not OK’d an ordinance, they must close.
The business owners got the letters because the they hadn’t submitted an application to the state for a license yet and had no proof of approval from the communities where they were operating. As a result, the state deemed that they were operating illegally.
The list was derived from publicly available information, including websites such as weedmaps.com, said David Harns, spokesman for LARA. A quick round of phone calls Thursday to a dozen of the businesses on the list revealed recordings that the lines that had been disconnected.
“After the news of the first round of letters hit, we found a lot more had voluntarily closed before we got there," Harns said. "We haven’t checked back to see if they’re all still operating, but we’ve had a number of businesses contact us to dispute that they’re operating illegally."
For example, Bloomfield Hills attorney Michael Stein, who represents several Detroit dispensaries, said some of his clients got the letter, but have a court order to prove that those businesses can continue to operate while they battle over the lack of a medical marijuana ordinance in Detroit.
“There are quite a few scenarios that we’ve heard about and we’re checking into it,” Harns said.
As for the patients with medical marijuana cards — there are more than 277,000 in Michigan — Harns noted that while 210 dispensaries may have been ordered to shutter their businesses, there are still 215 operating in the state under temporary emergency rules passed by LARA. Those businesses have submitted license applications and have at least temporary, if not full, approval from the communities where they're located.
“There are more open than we’ve sent cease and desist letters to,” Harns said. “There still are a large number of places where people can get their medicine.”
The Michigan Medical Marijuana Licensing Board is scheduled to meet April 19 to consider more applications for licenses.