YEAR IN REVIEW #19: Medical marijuana dispensaries forced to close

Jeff Smith/Photo Editor Battle Creek resident Joseph Casias, a medical marijuana patient, hugs East Lansing resident Jennifer Read after her speech on how marijuana has aided her battle with a rare form of Leukodystrophy as event organizer Mancelona resident Becca Hollandsworth cries and looks on at the medical marijuana rally Tuesday afternoon outside the Isabella County Building, 200 N. Main Street. "It was very inspiring," Casias said. Read discovered after nearly 15 years of unsuccessful treatments that medical marijuana was the most effective in relieving her symptoms.

On Aug. 24 the state appeals court handed down a ruling that closed medical marijuana dispensaries across Michigan.

In a 17-page opinion, a three-judge panel ruled Compassionate Apothecary of Mount Pleasant a public nuisance. The Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not permit the sale of marijuana — either by licensed caregivers or licensed patients, according to court documents. Instead, it only creates an exception for its use by such permit holders.

The case stemmed from efforts by Isabella County Prosecutor Larry Burdick to shut down the Michigan Street dispensary last year. In a December 2010 opinion, county Judge Paul H. Chamberlain ruled the dispensary to be legal and stated the MMMA does not specify how medical marijuana can be distributed.

The appeals court ruling against CA of Mount Pleasant was used as a precedent for other cases in Michigan and overturned Chamberlain’s ruling.

At CA of Mount Pleasant, patients and caregivers could rent lockers for marijuana storage and purchase cannabis from other CA members. CA owners Brandon McQueen and Matt Taylor had been using this method as a basis for sales and took in 20 percent of the sale price for themselves, according to court records.

The company operated similar dispensaries in Lansing and Traverse City and there were about 345 CA members, according to the records.