By Jenny Kalish
Lansing Star staff writer
Following a Michigan Court of Appeals decision in the state of Michigan vs. McQueen case last August, which made patient-to-patient sales of marijuana illegal, 48 dispensaries in Lansing will be refunded the $1,000 fee each of them had to pay to apply for a business license.
“With the current state of the law, we’re not going to continue processing them because we don’t feel that it’s something that can be licensed. We’re taken out of that ability by the city,” said Lansing City Clerk Chris Swope.
The business license fee for a medical marijuana dispensary is $1,000 for each business, plus another $75 per employee to cover background checks. The amount varies among different types of businesses, and depends on the amount of inspections the city must perform to ensure the business is up to city code.
In the case of dispensaries, however, the city never performed inspections because of the change in medical marijuana law. “We had to have a fire marshal do an inspection of the building, we had to have a building inspector do an electrical inspection and a plumbing inspection, and we had to have the zoning administrator go out and determine if they were within a 1,000 ft of a school; All these different things that we were supposed to perform, but we had not really performed most of them. So the reason that we needed the money no longer existed.” Swope said.
In 2008, congress passed the MMMA, allowing medical marijuana patients to purchase the drug legally. But the lack of specificity in the legislation eventually led to a lawsuit between a Mt. Pleasant dispensary and the state of Michigan, which led to the current state of the law.
Michigan is one of 16 states with medical marijuana legislation. Though the legislation still exists, the McQueen case has made it much more difficult for patients to obtain medical marijuana. One medical marijuana user, who wishes to remain anonymous, is unsure where to turn now that her local dispensary has closed its doors. “I was diagnosed with breast cancer last year, and my doctor recommended I smoke pot to help kill the cancer cells. I never smoked pot before, so I was sort of unsure about it, but it has helped me cope tremendously, and it has helped kill some cancerous cells, and now that it’s not easy to find I don’t know what my options are,” she said.
Shekina Pena, owner of Your Healthy Choice Clinic in Lansing, a marijuana resource center and short-lived dispensary, was contacted by Swope’s office last Thursday and is expecting to receive her full refund within the week. However, instead of putting the money back into Your Healthy Choice Clinic’s operating budget, she is donating the $1,645 to legal fees for an appeal of the McQueen case to the Michigan Supreme Court. “I was excited about the refund for sure, but now what we are going to do is donate that money to emergency fees and also the court of appeals so we can kind of get these establishments back open for the patients.” Pena said.
The city clerk’s office will be giving all of the dispensaries located in Lansing full refunds in the next few weeks. He is currently making contact with all of them to verify the addresses of the dispensary owners.