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Police weigh in on state proposals for medical marijuana dispensaries

Neeta Lind

Michigan police are weighing in on state proposals to officially recognize – and regulate – medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Michigan House already passed a bill to create a new framework for who grows, transports, and sells marijuana to these storefronts – sometimes called a “seed-to-sale” tracking system.

For the most part, Howell Police Chief George Basar says he likes the proposals. Basar also represents the Michigan Association of Police Chiefs, and he says he wants the state to allow local police to inspect dispensaries.

“We’re looking for the ability for local law enforcement to be able to perform inspections on any of the provision centers, the transport agencies, the storage facilities, the manufacturing facilities,” he says.

“Currently in the proposed bill, there is no provision for that. That all falls to the new division that’ll be created under the state police to deal with the dispensaries.”

Under current law, licensed caregivers can grow medical marijuana for a small group of registered patients.

But the bill that’s now going to the Michigan Senate would prohibit caregivers from selling excess supply to dispensaries.

Chief Basar says, that’s a good thing.

"If we allow that to happen, what we do is end up creating a cottage industry and a business for these caregivers."

But Matt Abel, a criminal defense lawyer who specializes in marijuana cases, says that restriction would essentially cut the little guy out of a growing industry.

“We do want a cottage industry, and there are so many reasons why. The economic reasons are overwhelming, where cottage industries employ a lot more people, so there’s good labor and employment,” says Abel.

“In addition, for the consumer, there’s much more choice. The system that they’re setting up [in Lansing] will give us a system that’s essentially a choice between Miller and Budweiser. I prefer craft beers. These growers are craft growers. They may not be able to grow 500 plants. So this system is going to lock them out [of the new industry.]”

Abel and other advocates say the proposed regulations are too restrictive, and will create a burdensome level of bureaucracy for dispensaries and growers in the state. 

Kate Wells is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently covering public health. She was a 2023 Pulitzer Prize finalist for her abortion coverage.
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