Michigan medical marijuana 101: A primer.

There’s a lot of moving parts as the state moves to shore up the ‘wild west’ industry. Here’s what you need to know.

There’s a lot going on –  and a lot to understand –  as Michigan moves to bring order to its medical marijuana industry.

Here’s a quick primer of what’s happening:

The news

Next year, Michigan will begin issuing five types of licenses for businesses associated with medical marijuana, from dispensaries to transporters. Last week, state officials warned existing dispensaries to close by Dec. 15 if they want a good shot at a license.

Local communities can opt in or out of the new medical marijuana program. Cities that opt in and allow dispensaries get 25 percent of revenue from the 3 percent tax on gross receipts at dispensaries located in the municipality. Dispensaries (and the other four kinds of licensed facilities) can only operate in communities that opt in.

In Detroit

Voters face two ballot questions at the Nov. 8 ballot, both pushed by a group called Citizens for Sensible Cannabis Reform.

One ballot measure would opt Detroit into the state law and allow dispensaries to be legal and subject to the state tax.

The other ballot measure would allow dispensaries to open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. (they must now close by 8 p.m.) and be located within only 500 feet of a church, other dispensary, park, liquor store and childcare centers (rather than 1,000 feet.)

There’s more

Petitions are being circulated statewide for a statewide referendum to legalize recreational marijuana use in Michigan. If voters pass it, that would mean any adult could buy marijuana, without needing a doctor to certify they need it medicinally. The proposal would impose a 16 percent tax on marijuana with the revenue going to local communities, schools and roads.

The wild card

Marijuana is still illegal under federal law. The Obama administration didn’t challenge state laws legalizing it in places such as Colorado and Washington state.

But the Trump administration isn’t as accommodating. U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, has asked the Senate to repeal rules so the Justice Department can enforce federal laws against medical marijuana.

That could send the entire industry into a tailspin.

RELATED: Reefer madness in Michigan. Marijuana shops face hazy future.

RELATED: Michigan has barely made any money off marijuana. That ends next year.

Facts matter. Trust matters. Journalism matters.

If you learned something from the story you're reading please consider supporting our work. Your donation allows us to keep our Michigan-focused reporting and analysis free and accessible to all. All donations are voluntary, but for as little as $1 you can become a member of Bridge Club and support freedom of the press in Michigan during a crucial election year.

Pay with VISA Pay with MasterCard Pay with American Express Donate now

Comment Form

Add new comment

Dear Reader: We value your thoughts and criticism on the articles, but insist on civility. Criticizing comments or ideas is welcome, but Bridge won’t tolerate comments that are false or defamatory or that demean, personally attack, spread hate or harmful stereotypes. Violating these standards could result in a ban.

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.


Duane Olson
Tue, 09/19/2017 - 8:41am

As states move forward in legalizing marijuana the federal government will soon have no choice but to change the scheduling of marijuana.

Disgruntled Taxpayer
Tue, 09/19/2017 - 10:12am

Confusion? No one appears more confused than the author of this article. Michigan law and case history is very clear. As of today, there is no such thing as a legal medical marijuana dispensary in Michigan. Local ordinances may not violate state and federal law, so ordinances governing dispensary locations such as in the City of Detroit are, ultimately, not legal. All municipalities with currently operating dispensaries are simply refusing to enforce state (and/or federal) law. It's irrelevant where you fall on the ongoing medical marijuana (or recreational marijuana) debate, the law is the law and is very clear. Everything changes come December 15, when provisioning centers (the term dispensaries is not used in the Michigan's Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act) may operated legally within Michigan under certain conditions. The issue the author appears to be getting at is the transition between illegal dispensaries to legal provisioning centers. That is confusing, largely because the state hasn't been particularly speedy or clear on the framework for granting facilities licenses. There are obviously pros and cons and ramifications with shutting down all of the dispensaries prior to granting licenses for provisioning centers. Why should those who've been operating illegally benefit financially by having a head start on those waiting to operate legally under the new laws? That said, the state (LARA) cannot possibly hope to truly have a clean slate come December 15. I don't believe that it's possible to eradicate all dispensaries and have a fresh, fair start for all. Many of those currently operating illegally will be among the first to open legally, unless LARA declines to issue them licenses due to their past activity. It is a can of worms. One largely created by municipalities, with Detroit being the poster boy, refusing to uphold their obligations and thus allowing the illegal activity of dispensaries to take root. If there were no dispensaries currently operating, the concerns regarding the upcoming transition would be moot.

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 12:54pm

What you say may be true, however these dispensaries exist. If they are illegal, why haven't they been shut down by law enforcement? If Detroit is the poster child, then law enforcement is the sibling. They raid easy targets like Gaylord, but never Ann Arbor, rarely Detroit, rarely Lansing. The law can imply, and the purpose of it is to help sick folks, which dispensaries have done, but with profit motives unfortunately. This really boils down to the dumb down of society initiated by Harry Anslinger, boosted by Richard Nixon and law enforcement. The public was lied to, didn't take time to question the ignorant racist propaganda and believed a crook. The law certainly allows for home growing and caregivers and that's the best future for patients. No sick individual should have to pay any tax for medicine, and that is the state's goal. Revenue from the ill. That's shameful.

John Saari
Sun, 09/24/2017 - 6:28am

Our Democracy allows a majority to pass laws that regulate all of us. It takes the State and Fed gov bureaucracy to overburden , confuse and make any law unenforceable.

Disgruntled Taxpayer
Tue, 09/19/2017 - 10:16am

The author should have added, "Marijuana is still illegal under Michigan law." The MMMA did not make medical marijuana legal in Michigan, it granted immunity from state prosecution under certain sets of conditions. Said conditions do not allow for dispensaries.

Sun, 10/22/2017 - 10:00am

"Marijuana is still illegal under Michigan law."?

You can say that again i here it all the time from Judge's in the Court room arrest are up 17% here in this sad State

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 3:46am

Thank you for the good read.
Yet again. :)

Wed, 09/20/2017 - 1:27pm

If you have a debilitating illness, please wait for two years plus to get medicine and pay tax on it. Your sympathetic friends, the Michigan state government.

John Saari
Sun, 09/24/2017 - 6:21am

We must have enough Communities that are allowing marihuana use, to tally the outbreak of outlaws. I think the gov is withholding the truth.