DETROIT (WWJ/AP) – It is illegal to sell medical marijuana through private shops, the Michigan Supreme Court ruled Friday in a decision one lawyer called “the end of the road” for the hotly debated issue.
In a 4-1 decision, the state’s highest court affirmed an Appeals Court finding that Michigan’s 2008 medical marijuana law does not allow people to sell pot to each other, even if they’re among the tens of thousands who have state-issued marijuana cards.
“The Court of Appeals reached the correct conclusion that defendants are not entitled to operate a business that facilitates patient-to-patient sales of marijuana,” the court’s majority wrote.
The state’s marijuana law makes no mention of dispensaries, nor does it indicate how people should get the drug. It says people can possess up to 2.5 ounces of “usable” marijuana and keep up to 12 plants in a locked place. A caregiver also can provide marijuana.
Michigan’s attorney general said the court’s decision means so-called dispensaries “will have to close their doors.” He said he’s notifying county prosecutors that they have the green light to shut down medical-marijuana shops.
Matthew Abel, a Detroit attorney who specializes in medical marijuana law, told WWJ Newsradio 950 argues that that is not the case. He said the ruling wasn’t as bad as he thought it would be.
“People again will think that this ruling outlaws dispensaries, but that’s not what it said. It said that people cannot sell medical marijuana — but we knew that,” Abel said.
Abel reiterated that, in his view, pot dispensaries are not under fire.
“This confirms our feeling that this is a service industry and that the sale of marijuana is not legal — but a caregiver may receive compensation for costs, versus being a patient,” Abel said.
Abel said now is the time for Michigan lawmakers to weigh in.
“This is the end of the road. This is it,” said Abel, whose firm is known as Cannabis Counsel PLC. “It will be a mess until the Legislature clarifies what kinds of business entities are allowed to exist.”
The Supreme Court said Compassionate Apothecary in Mount Pleasant can be shut down as a “public nuisance.”
The business’ owners had claimed they weren’t doing anything illegal because the law allowed for the “delivery” and “transfer” of marijuana. The business allowed its members to sell marijuana to each other, with the owners taking as much as a 20 percent cut.
Messages seeking comment were left with a spokeswoman for Attorney General Bill Schuette and another with Isabella County Prosecutor Rita Scully, who has said the state’s medical marijuana statute does not allow for dispensaries.
The attorney general called last year’s Appeals Court decision “a huge victory for public safety.”
The majority opinion was written by Chief Justice Robert Young, who was joined by Justices Stephen Markman, Mary Beth Kelly and Brian Zahra.
Justice Michael Cavanagh dissented, and Justice Bridget McCormack, who won election in November, did not take part in the case.
The case was argued in October.
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