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Posted on Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 4:36 p.m.

Officials, medical marijuana dispensaries grapple with ruling outlawing pot sales

By Juliana Keeping

Local officials and medical marijuana dispensary owners are struggling to interpret a Michigan appeals court ruling that selling pot at dispensaries is illegal.

What does it mean for the estimated two dozen or more dispensaries operating in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area?

For now, confusion.


Plants grown for medical marijuana usage.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The ruling banned patient-to-patient sales at dispensaries and states the sale of marijuana is not permitted under the 2008 state law that legalized medical marijuana.

Dispensaries have side-stepped the transfer of money for marijuana by framing transactions as a donation rendered for services— not payment for pot.

Under federal law, any sale of marijuana is illegal, whether for medical use or not.

“If the patients are not getting it from a caregiver, and purchasing it from a dispensary, it’s outlawed,” said Stephen Postema, Ann Arbor’s city attorney

The ruling strikes at the legitimacy of most medical marijuana dispensary operations, said Chuck Ream, a partner with MedMar, an Ann Arbor dispensary and a long-time medical marijuana activist.

While the preferred method of doing business is now illegal, it doesn’t mean local dispensary owners will close up shop, Ream said. MedMar will remain open.

“There’s been an appellate court decision that’s negative to dispensaries,” Ream said. “It’s got to go to the Michigan Supreme Court. Our attorney says ‘Don’t panic.’ We will continue serving our patients and that’s the way it is.”

Absent from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act is any language addressing dispensaries, which have popped up all over the state.

Twenty or more clinics have opened up in the Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti area since the law legalizing medical pot went into effect in April 2009.

Ann Arbor has been working to develop a process for regulating dispensaries. Ypsilanti has already issued several licenses to medical marijuana providers under a zoning ordinance it developed late last year and early this year.

Staff and Ann Arbor City Council will need to review its new zoning and licensing ordinances in light of the ruling, Postema said.

“We’ll be reviewing this matter further,” he said.

Calling themselves cooperatives, health collectives or compassion centers, dispensaries are places where patients with qualifying medical conditions — like cancer, glaucoma, multiple sclerosis, chronic pain and other afflictions listed in the state act — can purchase medical marijuana.

Daryl Mines, co-owner of People’s Choice Alternative Medicine in Ann Arbor, said the ruling by the appeals court would limit patients’ choices on where they can get their medical marijuana. Although he’s still going through the 17-page decision, he said he’s concerned about how it will affect the business. “Patients, caregivers and owners should all be concerned,” Mines said. “This is kind of a punch in the stomach, you could say.” Like Ream, Mines said he expected the decision to be appealed to the Michigan Supreme Court. He said he’s not entirely sure how the judgment will affect the city of Ann Arbor ordinance on medical marijuana since the ordinance looks to state law for guidance. If dispensaries are no longer allowed to operate, patients will still get the medicine they need — they will just have to find other means, Mines said. He said it could force patients to go back to “the way things were before the law was enacted.” He said having the dispensaries open and operating legally would allow patients to get the medicine in a safe manner. “Dispensaries are things that are needed. They provide a good environment and patients know they can go there and be safe,” Mines said. “The medication they’re getting is good medication and they don’t have to worry about anything being wrong with it.”

The owners of 3rd Coast Compassion Center in Ypsilanti, which bills itself as the first dispensary in the state, said they’d release a statement Friday on the ruling.

Most dispensaries reached by on Wednesday declined to comment and said they are still reviewing the decision to see what the implications are for their businesses.

One dispensary said it received 2 dozen calls from people asking if the business was still open after the ruling was announced. reporter Kyle Feldscher contributed to this story.

Juliana Keeping covers general assignment and health and the environment for Reach her at or 734-623-2528. Follow Juliana Keeping on Twitter



Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 10:37 p.m.

shadow wilson at 6:49 AM on August 25, 2011 This comment is hidden because you have chosen to ignore shadow wilson . Show DetailsHide Details Perhaps L will give some source for all these lofty claims_ a credible source. The way I see it as illustrated on another forum this simply says that patients can not sell to each other or give to each other.Why is this bad? We are not allowed to give prescription drugs away or to each other i.e if I have vicodin in my possession w/o a prescription I could be in trouble; what is the difference here ? The difference is this is a natural herb that is non toxic and nobody can overdose no matter how much they use or bleed out from gastro problems . Not even willow bark or asprin which is sold in bowling alleys , hotel lobbies and gas stations is safer .


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 9:31 p.m.

Sounds like Marijuana is taking away the profits from the local pharmacy aka "pill mills". What better way to boost prescription pain meds than to shut down the alternative...marijuana.

Homeland Conspiracy

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 4:09 p.m.

I see ads asking young people to vote...but why vote if a few old men can over turn the will of the people. If I was thinking about voting.. I should wouldn't after seeing this! Why bother to vote?


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 8:46 p.m.

Homeland, get ready you will have to vote again. And do not stop voting, your vote is needed!


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 12:41 p.m.

Michigan voters approved legislation to allow medical marijuana and it is a compassionate policy. They did not, however, vote to legalize pot in general. Unfortunately, this law has become an end run around existing Federal and State law. The law attacks medical ethics by giving a small minority of doctors who will sign a permission slip solely for a fee. They did not previously treat the 'patient' and never will. While a significant number of certified users are likely suffering illness and deserve compassion and the benefits of the law, I suspect a very large number have no real medical reason for pot. I doubt voters thought they were authorizing businesses selling marijuana. I support the legalization of pot. It should be legal, regulated and taxed. I do not, however, support the status quo. Let's see if the Michigan voters will vote to legalize pot for everyone.

Ming Bucibei

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 12:29 p.m.

Legalize all drugs the criminal legal rout is a total failure to the tune of $30-40 billion osr more a year! Delete the KGB=DEAd Deal with the medical problems as needed The crimina legal system made a nonproblem in to a major problem Ming Bucibei

Mr Blue

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 12:11 p.m.

Activist judges. Hypocrite Conservatives.

Wolf's Bane

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 11:51 a.m.

Wow, two steps forward, one step back. Too bad. I'd say give up and get a real job.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 3:57 a.m.

This is an asinine decision. This ruling says that patient to patient transfers are illegal, so even if two parties have their own medical cards they are not allowed to charge each other for their medicine. This will cut the flow of medicine to people with serious medical conditions. If your caregiver loses their crop, you are legally not allowed to get your medicine until they finish their next crop. This will have adverse effects that could even result in death. The public would be outraged if people arbitrarily lost their prozac, xanax or any other prescription for 3 months. If all of the dispensaries are shut down, they will just increase crime and kill legitimate jobs. People have grow ops that they have invested tens of thousands of dollars in, they will not want to cut their production. This marijuana will end up drug dealers hands and increase prices, violence, and overall societal decay. Instead of making dispensaries illegal, they need to make them explicitly legal and tax them. This will promote the caregiver-patient relationship as they will not be as burdened as dispensaries are by taxes, which means more small, non-industrial grows. This would decrease crime and stimulate our economy at the same time.

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:29 a.m.

"violence and overall societal decay" ....buahahahahaha. Is your name Bill Schuette? Make it illegal and then blame the moral decay and degradation of society on MMJ no wait... make it LEGAL and blame the moral decay and degradation of society on MMJ no wait Make it illegal again and then blame the moral decay and degradation of society on MMJ ...buahahahahahahahahahahahhahahahahahahahh... Yer too DAMN funny...

shadow wilson

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 10:49 a.m.

Perhaps L will give some source for all these lofty claims_ a credible source. The way I see it as illustrated on another forum this simply says that patients can not sell to each other or give to each other.Why is this bad? We are not allowed to give prescription drugs away or to each other i.e if I have vicodin in my possession w/o a prescription I could be in trouble; what is the difference here ?

Milton Shift

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 3:08 a.m.

This makes all medical marijuana patients in the state of Michigan criminals. If you grow your own and never sell, you're still a criminal because you must have acquired seeds or plants illegally at some point. The law specifically says that patient to patient transfers are legal: "(e) "Medical use" means the acquisition, possession, cultivation, manufacture, use, internal possession, delivery, transfer, or transportation of marihuana or paraphernalia relating to the administration of marihuana to treat or alleviate a registered qualifying patient's debilitating medical condition or symptoms associated with the debilitating medical condition." The judges are legislating from the bench. Throw them out!


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:56 a.m.

Opioid Dependence- Injections of THC has been found to eliminate opioid dependence in stressed rats. They deprived them of their mother at birth and allowed them to use morphine and heroin to become addicted. Once addicted the researchers administered THC, and voila the rats no longer developed typical drug addiction symptoms. Researches conclude that this can be effective gateway to finding better and more therapeutic alternatives to existing substance abuse treatments. Historically, Clendinning used medical marijuana in 1843 for the treatment of opium addiction and alcoholism, and Birch in 1889 used medical marijuana to successfully treat opiate addiction and chloral addiction. There you have it, medical marijuana effectively treats a multitude of diseases and has the potential to treat hundreds of medical conditions, it's a wonder why we haven't been using medical marijuana all along, and why we're not currently using it now as the miracle drug that it seems to be. Final post in this string.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 3:05 a.m.

The author apologizes for the grammatical imperfections within the above posted statements. Post were sent prior to a final proof read.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:55 a.m.

Recent Studies on Medical Marijuana Alzheimer's disease- The Scripps Research Institute in California has shown that THC prevents the formation of deposits in the brain that are associated with Alzheimer's. It prevents an enzyme called acetylcholinesterase from speeding up the formation of Alzheimer plaques in the brain more effectively than commercial drugs. Molecular Pharmaceutics said in A Molecular Link Between the Active Component of Marijuana and Alzheimer's Disease Pathology that THC is more effective in blocking clumps of protein that inhibit memory and cognition in Alzheimer's patients. Lung cancer- Researchers at Harvard University has said that THC has been found to reduce tumor growth by 50% in common lung cancer and significantly reduces the ability of the lung cancer to spread. Breast cancer- In a study at the California Pacific Medical Center Research Institute, CBD (cannabidiol, a non-psychoactive cannabinoid that is found in marijuana) may stop breast cancer from spreading throughout the rest of the body. This could be a non-toxic alternative chemotherapy while minimizing the painful and miserable side effects. HIV AIDS- Marijuana has been proven to reduce HIV-related neuropathic pain in patients who already a pain control method, and an effective method for pain relief for those who don't have pain currently controlled by medication. Marijuana also substantially increases food intake with little evidence of discomfort or impairment of cognitive performance (duh). Note that mood disturbance, physical disability, and quality of life all improved significantly during the experiement. Brain cancer- The Complutense University of Madrid found that chemicals in marijuana actually promoted the death of brain cancers by helping them feed upon themselves, something called autophagy. THC has anticancer effects in mice with human brain cancer cells as well as people with brain tumors. Next post.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:54 a.m.

What Does Medical Marijuana Treat? Medical marijuana is thought to treat a number of different diseases, disorders, and illnesses. The list of things that can be treated is by no means exhaustive as we still have a lot to learn about medical marijuana since it has only begun to gain acceptance in the United States. Further research is needed to see if it can treat otherwise incurable diseases, or the ones that don't seem so obvious to be treated. Medical marijuana has been proven with scientific research to treat: nausea, vomiting, premenstrual syndrom, unintentional weight loss, lack of appetite, spasticity, extremely painful conditions like neurogenic pain, movement disorders, asthma and glaucoma. Preliminary research findings indicate that medical marijuana can be useful in treating: inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis, Crohn's disease), migraines, fibromyalgia and other related conditions, multiple sclerosis, spinal cord injuries, Tourette syndrom, obsessive-compulsive disorders (OCD). Other studies have shown that medical marijuana can also benefit: alcohol abuse, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, collagen-induced arthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, atherosclerosis, autism, bipolar disorder, childhood mental disorders, colorectal cancer, depression, diabetic retinopathy, dystonia, epilepsy, digestive diseases, gliomas, hepatitis C, Huntington's disease, hypertension, urinary incontinence, leukemia, skin tumors, morning sickness, methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (Staph Infection/MRSA) Parkinson's disease, pruritus, posttraumatic stress disorders (PTSD), sickle-cell disease, sleep apnea, and anorexia nervosa Next post please.

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

...add Traumatic Brain Injury, Post Concussive Disorder and Seizures to PTSD and consider the benefits to our returning Men and Women of the Armed forces Injured by the percussion of IED's...READ UP VETERANS ADMINISTRATION I'm talking to you too...


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:53 a.m.

For those of you that watch the news you'd know that marijuana is legal and has been legalized in up to 14 states: Alaska, California, Colorado, Hawaii, Maine, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington. While many more states on the way to either introducing medical marijuana legislation, or have already passed the medical marijuana legislation are beginning to implement it. (Washington DC, Missouri, Iowa, Kansas) And those that aren't making medical marijuana legal are either decriminalizing it or taking a look at what would happen if it were decriminalized. The proof is there that marijuana is not as harmful as it was once seemed. If marijuana was just as bad as it was said to have been in Reefer Madness, or when U.S. began its War on Drugs (thanks to Ronald Reagan) all of these states would not be researching and advocating medical marijuana. The pros must outweigh the cons exponentially for over 13 states to legalize medical marijuana. The US has the FDA to judge to whether medicine does more good than bad, and a lot of those medicines that get passed certainly have some pretty devastating side effects, not to mention worse problems if they are abused, and a lot of prescribed pain killers also have serious addiction and withdrawal problems. So if we have medicines on the market with severe side effects, but are deemed to do more harm than good it was only a matter of time before medical marijuana was proven to be a lot more beneficial than its supposed side effects, which at the time only seem like munchies and tiredness after you smoke a few blunts, and the best part is that you can't overdose on it. Sure, you may be a bit spaced out for a couple hours or days, but you won't have to be rushed to hospital or fear for your life if you accidentally eat too many magic brownies. See next Post.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 1:23 a.m.

Nothing like getting ridiculously stoned to fend off life's little maladies. Another sign of the downfall of our civilization. Amen to us.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 3:28 p.m.

Oh where to start? First of all, "Life's little maladies" Really? Have you not one compassionate bone in your body. Most of the patients I know and deal with, including myself have some of the most serious illnesses you can imagine!! Not one patient I know is getting ridiculously stoned to alleviate their pain! I guess people driving around loaded to the gills on precription pain meds, completely dependent and poisoned by them would be your answer to the downfall of our civilization? You really need to think before you speak!!


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:17 a.m.

So you are calling the intractable pain of such things as cancer one of "life's little maladies?" I would call that, sir, a sign of the downfall of our civilization. There is nothing civilized about your remark.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 1:36 a.m.

You obviously don't have anyone in your life to care for except yourself to make a comment like that. If you've ever held a sick, injured, or dying loved one, and shephered them through the legal and medical system, you wouldn't make such a thoughtless comment. It's so easy to be a big shot behind your keyboard.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 12:11 a.m.

Just legalize it already. The government and thus the taxpayers are wasting so much money on this when we could be profiting. It's ridiculous that this is even a debate even more.

Nearly Normal Warren

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

This is exactly what we don't want. Legalization at the state level can drive out the black market, provide regulation, healthy medicine and revenue for the state. Without the dispensaries the exchange between legitimate growers and patients becomes much more difficult and gives ground back to the black market.

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:10 a.m.

If tomatoes were grown and marketed this way they would be 15 dollars a gram


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 2:26 a.m.

The product is cheaper on the black market than the store front.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 1:05 a.m.

Warren makes four very good points and what is more, he spells "dispensaries" correctly. I am getting so tired of the profligate use of apostrophes in plurals on this site. If it's not a possessive, the plural noun does not have an apostrophe. Please?

Tom Joad

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:18 p.m.

The legislation in no way provided for California-type dispensaries which are an unmitigated money grab. These profiteers are making hundreds of thousands each month selling so-called medical marijuana at vastly inflated prices to line their own pockets.

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:09 a.m.

Have you ever priced a little itty bitty bottle of Abilify... Talk about profiteers and an unmitigated money grab... Are you a spokesperson for the Big Pharms Tom Joad ...or just a ghost...

David Wizard

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 9:57 p.m.

How are they overcharging? Dispensary product is priced pretty similarly to the black market, at least for smaller amounts.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 1:06 a.m.

I agree that they're overcharging sick people for medicine that they can't get anywhere else. But when exactly did making money become a crime in this country? I thought that was the highest and only virtue.

brett williams

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 1:01 a.m.

Well to be frank it is quite unregulated and no one knows what they can and can't do. These new rulings over the next few years will define those fine lines these "money-grabbers" are tip-toeing. "Medical" is a very loose term, in fact, my friend up by Big Rapids sells TO the dispensaries - not the other way around. Those dispensaries are just semi-legal drug dealers. I just wish we would legalize, regulate, and tax it in this country.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 12:39 a.m.

Where are you getting this information from?


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:11 p.m.

What healthy recreational users want to do on the down-low is their own business, so I'm not addressing them. But severely ill people who have found relief with cannabis or cannabis-derived edibles and tinctures for pain and suffering are often too poor and too physically ill to make it or grow it or do it themselves. Some of them are actually dying. I don't think a lot of people understand this, because thankfully, most of us don't have someone that sick or in pain in our lives. Sick and injured people shouldn't be denied relief or pushed into the black market for medicine. They don't have the money, and it's really unsafe. Do we really want to push all of this back underground? I know the law as written is unclear, but laws can be amended and improved. Terminal and permanently injured people, on the other hand, cannot change. There has to be a better and more humane way to resolve this.

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2:05 a.m.

Or... the will of an overwhelming majority of the people of the State of Michigan can be usurped, the law totally disregarded and the persecution and criminalization and victimization of sick and innocent people can continue for another generation or two...


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 10:35 p.m.

1959Viking is right - If people really want marijuana to be legal, decriminalized, or available as a prescribed drug, then the US Congress must make one or any of these various choices available through legislation. The states that have legalized medical marijuana all essentially have condoned illegal behavior on the part of their citizens. I'm for the complete legalization and control of marijuana as an adult intoxicant - in other words, to be treated like alcohol. Taxed, sold in liquor stores - you could grow your own, just as you can make your own beer and wine. But, for that to happen, the U.S. Congress must overturn the current federal laws against marijuana. Meanwhile, I hope the MI Legislature writes a more reasonable and clearly stated law so Michiganders (citizens, police, judges, etc) will know what they can and cannot do. Finally - if you think you can get a license and you haven't yet, you'd better move on it! You MIGHT stand a better chance of still being able to possess marijuana in Michigan once the courts and legislature sort this out. Or, do what most of us do - buy small, stash securely, and use discreetly! (I figure I am not advocating illegal action any more than is our State!)

Wilford John Presler IV

Fri, Aug 26, 2011 : 2 a.m.

Yes indeed, step right up and get your license NOW while you can so that when Bill Schuette et al "recriminate" MMJ and turn over all of the records to the Federal DEA you too can be a martyr to the cause!


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 10:29 p.m.

If these Dispensary's are as they claim, to be law abiding businesses, and the courts for now say they can not sell (sell includes giving away free), then they should shut down until such time as the courts determine otherwise. If they don't, then they are criminal enterprises and should be prosecuted for any illegal activity. Thats what we do in a civil society, obey the law even if we do not agree with it. Is Ann Arbor any different? Are we above the law? I do not agree with the MML as it stands today, it needs to be cleared up and have enforcable clear standards for use by legitimate patients and distribution by legitimate sources..

David Wizard

Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 9:53 p.m.

That's a real creative interpretation of the word "sell." Since when does it include giving something away for free? When I give out candy on Halloween, I'm selling it? Come on. My understanding of the court ruling was that it only outlawed selling cannabis to patients. In most other situations where the law has been interpreted in a similar way, dispensaries modify their business procedure to only accept money as a donation, or as a club membership, and one perk of that membership is that you are entitled to a certain amount of cannabis freely given by the club per month.

Mr Blue

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:59 p.m.

Actually the vote in favor of medicinal marijuana in Michigan was 74% of voters.

David Briegel

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:30 p.m.

Hunter, you are absolutely correct. It is time for our civil servants to implement the will of 2/3 of our citizens and make this law a reality! Enough already!

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 9:42 p.m.

I'm not sure how any of these places get around the FDA? When did pot get FDA clearance to treat anything?


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 10:38 p.m.

Not all so-called remedies need FDA clearance, but point well made. I believe any other prescription drug has to go through the FDA. Not that the FDA is either reliable or above the influence of big business - but that is another discussion.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 10:15 p.m.

That's a valid argument, and the reason is because clinical trials have not been permitted. The research has not been allowed. It should be allowed. That would settle it. In other countries, cannabinoids have been proven to be one of the only substances effective on nerve pain; opioids do little or nothing for nerve pain.


Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 9:14 p.m.

There is going to be an ongoing conflict between federal law prohibiting the sale of marijuana, and state permission of medical marijuana. Due to the Supremacy Clause, Article VI, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution, establishing the U.S. Constitution, U.S. Treaties, and Federal Statutes as "the supreme law of the land." the final decision will have to be made by the US Supreme Court. Unless the US Congress passes a law permitting medical marijuana, eventually it will not be allowed to continue.


Thu, Aug 25, 2011 : 4:38 p.m.

The Federal government cannot stop MMJ, if they could they would have. The genie is out of the bottle and it's not going back. The only thing that is happening is some people are being allowed to live relatively safe in their usage of the PLANT, and other people are still being persecuted for doing the same thing. You are correct that the ultimate change has to come from the Feds but that doesn't mean that the states are powerless to do anything. Unfortunately our state is moving in the wrong direction on this issue we will see how it goes

Alan Goldsmith

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 8:54 p.m.

"Ann Arbor City Attorney Stephen Postema said the ruling makes it illegal for patients to purchase marijuana from dispensaries." Yeah, Mr. Conflict Of Interest Postema. Who does he respresent?

Mr Blue

Wed, Aug 24, 2011 : 11:57 p.m.

Mr Postema represents Chief Barnett and the rest of the Reefer Madness crowd in city hall. He certainly does not represent the will of Council or the people of Ann Arbor who are tolerant of marijuana.