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New model could save state's pot dispensaries

Medical marijuana dispensaries are beleaguered on all sides. Not only is the federal government intent on shutting many down, but it is nearly impossible for dispensaries to operate peacefully in any state, including Michigan. Now, though, a Grand Blanc-based attorney is providing a new business formation and planning model that could help these vital organizations succeed.

For starters, many dispensaries run into problems because only certified "caregivers" are allowed to distribute marijuana. In fact, the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act requires caregivers to be licensed before they can participate in dispensation activities. As a result, many people have not been getting the medical marijuana they need to treat their conditions.

In essence, the new structure would allow caregivers to distribute marijuana to five patients through secure lockers at a facility. Each patient could then be given the opportunity to essentially sponsor five other patients by serving as their caregiver. The attorney who devised the plan said he used the model successfully during a stint in California, where dispensaries abound.

Additional changes to the dispensary model would make patient-to-patient transfers impossible. Retail outlets had been under fire because of the public nuisance created by patients trading with each other. That problem has been solved by the development of a private membership system. Each private member would be required to fill out an application, provide the requisite caregiver forms and attend a legal briefing about the collective's mission.

Skeptics say they agree that the system is technically legal, but they wonder about the viability of the model in a real-life scenario. Even local law enforcement officers are not vocally opposing the dispensaries themselves; the only crimes associated with the facilities have been two recent burglary attempts.

In this case, businesses' activities are greatly restricted by changes to existing laws. Entrepreneurs should consult with their attorneys before making any major changes to their business models. Lawyers can be a valuable tool for a business owner because they can ensure compliance with ever-changing federal and state mandates.

Source: MLive, "Grand Blanc attorney offering alternative business plan to keep medical marijuana dispensaries open in Burton, Flint," Roberto Acosta, Feb. 23, 2013.

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