Dunnings insists marijuana dispensaries are illegal, urges moratorium

LANSING, MI – Lansing officials drafting a medical marijuana ordinance for the city are considering a moratorium on marijuana dispensaries. Ingham County prosecutor Stuart Dunnings supports the move, insisting dispensaries are illegal. He says a person-to-person relationship between caregiver and patient is the only model allowed by the state's new statute. WKAR's Mark Bashore sat down with Dunnings to discuss the matter.

Mark Bashore: This discussion centers on the sale of medical marijuana at these dispensaries. Presumably, when caregivers have a productive harvest, they have excess marijuana, they sell it to a dispensary, which then re-sells it to legal patients. Are we on the same page there? Is that your understanding of how these dispensaries work?

Stuart Dunnings: I'm not sure how they work. I mean, there's three or four around town. I'm not sure of the exact nature of the operations of any of the ones other than the one in Williamston.

MB: Well if a dispensary operated by the description that I just gave you, that would be not permissible in your view then?

SD: Given how you described it, that would not be permissible.

MB: Can you explain why?

SD: Because the law provides for the transfer of marijuana from a caregiver to a patient, that's been designated by the patient has designated that person as a caregiver. So that's what the law provides for.

MB: There's a lot of talk about how dispensaries are not necessarily mentioned in the statute, but they're not prohibited by the statute either. Is that relevant here?

SD: That is a fallacious argument. Marijuana the possession, sale, use of marijuana is illegal in the state of Michigan. There's been an exception carved out for persons who have a medical necessity, who have a card issued by the Michigan Department of Community Health that allows those individuals to possess and use marijuana. The law also provides for caregivers to produce and transfer marijuana, on a non-profit basis, to patients. Other than that, it's illegal.

MB: So the basis of your thinking on the statute is a caregiver-patient personal relationship that doesn't really allow for storefronts, public spaces, that kind of thing?

SD: I'm not sure what you mean by public space.
What the law provides for is caregiver to designated patient. We start out---everything is illegal with respect to this unless the law makes it legal. So the fact that the law is silent on dispensaries, means they're not legal.

MB: Lansing City Attorney Brig Smith is resisting the idea of a moratorium I take it. He told me yesterday that a moratorium and an ordinance are "flip sides of the same coin." Is it possible that municipalities like Lansing are capable of enacting ordinances that regulate dispensaries adequately?

SD: Well you're talking about dispensaries. As you've described dispensaries, they're not legal.

MB: Because they violate the caregiver/patient model, is that right?

SD: That's the only thing the law allows.

MB: There is other language in the statute that I'm led to believe is confusing this matter as well. At one point, it says---and I'm editing here---'a person shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution or penalty in any manner or denied any right or privilege for assisting a registered qualifying patient with using or administering marijuana.' That seems to be extremely permissive language and it's in the statute. How much, if any, confusion is that language creating right now?

SD: The entire statute creates confusion. It's poorly written, it's poorly drafted, it's very confusing. Um, so the whole thing is a problem.

MB: Can you comment on the raid that took place yesterday (Wednesday) in Williamston at the Green Leaf Smoker's Club?

SD: I can't really say a lot because the matter is still under investigation, but I would like to correct what I think is some erroneous belief out there. The plants of the caregivers--or the persons we believe may have been caregivers--were not seized. They're still on the premises. We did not interrupt that part of the operation because that purportedly is legal.