Mich. Marijuana Dispensaries Can Be Shut Down as Public Nuisance

By Tanya Roth, Esq. on February 12, 2013 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The Michigan Supreme Court recently dealt a blow to the state's medical cannabis industry when it ruled that prosecutors can shut down medical marijuana dispensaries as public nuisances.

Friday's 4-1 decision held that the transfer of marijuana from patient to patient, which is how marijuana transactions took place in many of Michigan's pot clubs, was not legal under the state's medical marijuana law, Yahoo! News reports.

Under Michigan's public nuisance laws, a place is a nuisance if it involves danger, annoyance or injury to the public in general. According to the Michigan State Bar, the public nuisance law applies to "low grade criminal activities that interfere with the ... public health, morals or peace."

Despite medical marijuana bringing nearly $10 million in revenue to the state of Michigan, as Salon recently reported, local prosecutors in Michigan now have the authority to shut down marijuana dispensaries under the public nuisance law.

Many dispensaries in Michigan have been operating as membership organizations, where transactions would happen from member to member. The dispensaries would take a cut from each transaction.

But the court found member-to-member handovers are not allowed under Michigan's medical pot law, approved by voters in 2008. The law, however, does mention caregiver-to-patient pot transactions, which the court held was legal.

Here's the catch though: An authorized caregiver can only provide marijuana for up to five patients under Michigan's law, according to ThinkProgress.org.

The case decided by the Michigan Supreme Court was part of a push by the state's Attorney General Bill Schuette in his fight against the legalization of medical marijuana (which, in Michigan's laws, is spelled "marihuana."). While the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was voted into law in 2008, the law failed to use the terms "sale" or "dispensary," as seen in other states' medical pot laws. This oversight ultimately proved fatal under the Michigan Supreme Court's decision.

Is this a game-changer for the fight to legalize marijuana? Possibly. But for cannabis advocates, it's back to the drawing board to come up with some new legislation.

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