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Michigan Orders Shutdown of 40 Pot Shops, More Expected This Week

As the Great Lakes State ushers in new medical marijuana regulations, authorities are trying their best to close unlicensed dispensaries.

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Photo via O'Dea

40 Michigan marijuana dispensaries got a rude awakening last week, as state regulators and local cops hand-delivered cease and desist demands, ordering them to close up shop and cease any cannabis sales immediately.

According to a report from the Detroit Free Press, state police and officials from the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs made their first set of pot shop sweeps last Thursday, and plan to close hundreds of additional dispensaries in the coming weeks.

Michigan legalized a loosely regulated medical marijuana program in 2008, with widespread access similar to California’s Proposition 215 program. In 2016, though, the state passed legislation to corral the unwieldy industry, adding strict regulations and a new tax structure to medical cannabis sales.

Included in Michigan’s 2016 regulatory rewrite is a provision that allows existing cannabis businesses to continue to operate during the licensing process as long as they demonstrate that they are actively seeking out a proper permit. But even in the face of the state’s transitional leniency, a significant number of pot shops have avoided the licensing process altogether.

Now, with the revised medical regulations set to be implemented next month, Michigan cannabis officials are cracking down on ganjapreneurs operating outside of the new rules, targeting any and all canna-business that failed to submit proper licensing paperwork by last month’s deadline.

“Any business that didn't apply for a license by Feb. 15 isn't in compliance with the emergency rules that were set up," said David Harns, state regulatory spokesman, to the Free Press. "We did 40 today all throughout the state and there will be hundreds more."

If targeted dispensaries and producers refuse to comply with the state’s cease and desist directives, businesses could be blacklisted from ever receiving a proper state license and eventually face both civil and criminal charges.

According to local NBC affiliate WNDU, state police and officials did not confiscate any cannabis products or make any arrests when they delivered the closure notices.

In California, a shift in medical cannabis laws put into effect in January has created a similar dilemma for existing pot shops, many of which did not seek or were not approved for proper state licensing. As the Golden State continues to figure out the best path forward for its brand new adult-use cannabis industry, reconciling the future of its existing medical canna-businesses has proven more difficult than originally expected.

For Michigan officials, the path to total compliance will come through visibility and persistence. And with the Free Press reporting that only 378 state licensing applications have been submitted with “hundreds” of non-compliant businesses still operating, it appears that in the coming months Michigan regulators will spend just as much time visiting delinquent ganjapreneurs as they do debating permit approvals and denials.

Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Board will meet next week to begin assessing the state’s properly submitted canna-business permit applications.