The fate of nearly 100 provisioning centers in Michigan is looking much more propitious after a judge recently blocked state authorities from shutting them down. Michigan Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello ruled on Sept. 13 to block the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) from shutting down 98 medical cannabis provisioning centers.
LARA required provisioning centers to file a Step 2 application under its emergency rules by June 15, lest they become at risk of closure. Step 2 is a document-intensive license qualification requirement that many applicants say involves a confusing process. Those who did not complete this requirement back in June were given only 72 hours on Sept. 11 to liquidate their entire supply or shut down. Per LARA’s recent announcement, the Montrowe provisioning center and other facilities would have been forced to sell or destroy their cannabis entirely by Sept. 15. In total, 98 provisioning centers were in jeopardy.
Pollicella & Associates, PLLC, a law firm representing Montrowe provisioning center in Jackson, filed a lawsuit against LARA on Sept. 13 to extend Michigan’s Step 2 paperwork deadline to Dec. 15. They felt that 72 hours wasn’t enough time to reasonably complete the requirements.
Judge Borrello ruled in favor of the provisioning centers, granting an injunction to block any attempt to shut them down. “We know of one provisioning center that filed a lawsuit and one injunction that was issued by a judge,” LARA spokesperson David Harns told CULTURE. “The judge’s injunction affects the 98 [provisioning centers] that would have been slated to close after the Sept. 15 deadline passed.”
Attorney and CULTURE contributor Denise Pollicella claimed that losing Montrowe’s entire $500,000 inventory would have certainly put the provisioning center—and many others—out of business. LARA officials, however, slightly disagreed. “All 200 or so provisioning centers were supposed to close on Sept. 15,” Harns added. “We gave some relief to 108 of those who had turned in their Step 2 requirement by June 15. That’s the injunction that the judge put in place is that we could not separate the applicants into two separate groups. They each have to be treated the same.”
“This rule, which was overturned [Sept. 13] by Judge Stephen Borrello would have resulted in criminal charges against many law-abiding citizens.”
The remaining 98 provisioning centers that were not granted relief by LARA may rest more at ease now, without being blindsided by a rule that they claim wasn’t properly communicated.
Pollicella spoke on behalf of the Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan, an attorney team she founded, shortly after the ruling. “Cannabis Attorneys of Michigan is pleased and relieved that we were able to defend our clients and other reputable medical cannabis license applicants against what was, in our opinion, an unconstitutional rule,” Pollicella said in a statement. “This rule, which was overturned [Sept. 13] by Judge Stephen Borrello would have resulted in criminal charges against many law-abiding citizens. Additional consequences range from widespread employee layoffs, bankruptcies and a massive infusion of marihuana into the black market. Most importantly, it would have cut off access to safe medical cannabis to Michigan’s patient population.”
The lawsuit was praised by local workers in the cannabis industry, who depend on their businesses for sustenance. They are real people working real jobs, and there are families behind every one of them.
Provisioning center operators aren’t exactly off the hook just yet. Yet another requirement mandates that they must pay $48,000 for a regulatory assessment, and many of them only had 10 days to do so. After Oct. 1, the assessment fee went up to $66,000. No matter how you look at it, operating a cannabis business in Michigan is no easy feat.