LANSING – The saga of unlicensed medical marijuana facilities continues this week as a judge blocked the state’s upcoming March 31 deadline for an estimated 50 provisioning centers to close.

At least six provisioning centers, some of which were denied licenses by the Medical Marihuana Licensing Board and are going through or plan to go through the appeals process, sued the state on its deadline.

Court of Claims Judge Stephen Borrello provided a temporary restraining order on the deadline and scheduled a hearing for April 9, 2019. Mr. Borrello wrote the plaintiffs were likely to succeed in their case on merits and would suffer irreparable harm if the deadline was enforced.

Two of the lawsuits, brought by Green Genie and Top Dollar Holdings LLC, said they would lose the significant money they have invested in their businesses so far (one facility had entered into a 25-year lease before the application was denied), fire dozens of employees and lose inventory (See Gongwer Michigan Report, March 27, 2019).

Mr. Borrello provided the same order for six lawsuits before him. They all will be taken up at the same hearing on April 9.

His order also said there is a “substantial likelihood” of harm to the general public if the restraining order were not granted.

The Bureau of Marijuana Regulation will continue the current status quo, including allowing licensed facilities to purchase caregiver product without needing to get it tested, until told differently by the courts, a statement said.

As medical marijuana has come under the new regulated system, the state has struggled with provisioning centers, often called dispensaries, that operated in a legal grey area before the Legislature passed the new regulatory structure in 2016.

While the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that the 2008 medical marijuana law did not allow for dispensaries, several communities allowed them to exist and the state did not take any action against those facilities. The 2016 law was silent on existing operations.

The Bureau of Marijuana Regulation has recommended several deadlines after Medical Marihuana Licensing Board member Don Bailey said at the board’s early meetings existing facilities should close if they wanted a license from the state.

Some deadlines were extended by the state as the process continued to move along throughout 2018 and Mr. Borrello also provided a temporary restraining order in September 2018 halting a different deadline.

The state had planned on requiring roughly 50 unlicensed facilities, mostly provisioning centers, to close on March 31, or receive cease and desist letters. There could also be legal action taken. In June, it will become illegal to operate an unlicensed facility under state law.

This story was published by Gongwer News Service.