Judge stomps out state's effort to force new medical marijuana licensing deadline

For the second time this fall, a Michigan judge has stopped the state's efforts to shut down medical marijuana businesses -- one day before the deadline was poised to take effect.

Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borello granted a motion Tuesday, Oct. 30, that kills the state's latest attempt to shut down any medical marijuana dispensaries operating without a license. 

Borello granted a temporary restraining order on a Oct. 31 licensing deadline -- thereby allowing dispensaries to keep their doors open without a state license.

He also ordered that the state be prevented from imposing any other licensing deadlines on medical marijuana businesses until the court rules again. 

"We've received Judge Borello's order and are reviewing it," said David Harns, spokesman for the Bureau of Medical Marihuana Regulation.

In his ruling in the case First Class Inc. vs. State of Michigan and Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, Borello called the state's efforts to force unlicensed businesses to shut down after Oct. 31 "arbitrary and capricious." 

The case will be back before Borello Nov. 9, one day after the next Medical Marihuana Licensing Board meeting. 

This week, the majority of the board members said they would offer some clemency to certain businesses looking to obtain licenses if they kept products on their shelves after Oct. 31 but didn't have their doors open. 

"I've heard a lot and I appreciate all the concerns about the supply of marijuana," said Rick Johnson, chairman of the board. "I also appreciate the need to move forward to a regulated market to ensure patient safety."

The legal battle between Borello and the state's Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs started last month as the state was trying to force marijuana dispensaries to become licensed. 

Two days before state officials were to impose a Sept. 15 deadline and close 98 dispensaries, Borello ruled in Montrowe vs. Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs that businesses had until Dec. 15 to be licensed. 

State officials fired back Oct. 1, with a new set of emergency rules requiring all businesses to gain a license by Oct. 31.

The legal-back-and forth concerns about 200 medical marijuana businesses that have been temporarily operating under emergency rules in Michigan and are trying to enter the licensed system. Although medical marijuana has been legal in the state since 2008, officials are now trying to regulate the industry for the first time. The first business licenses were issued in July.

State regulators have tried to set hard deadlines for compliance along the way -- but have extended them three times after the industry protested it would make it impossible to do business and would prevent patients from getting their medicine.

Last week, Michigan saw the first licensed retail sales of medical marijuana at a licensed provisioning center in Detroit.

read more at MLive.com

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