March 18 2013 12:00 AM

Bernero blasts Appeals Court ruling on medical marijuana dispensaries.

Updated Thursday, Aug. 25 — Lansing Mayor Virg Bernero blasted the state Appeals Court’s
ruling on medical marijuana dispensaries today.

“Yesterday’s ruling is obviously a major setback for those
who believe that the medical marijuana law was an important step forward in
helping people who suffer from chronic pain to be able to use marijuana for
medicinal purposes, Bernero said in a statement released by his office.

“An overwhelming majority of Michigan voters approved this
law, and while there have been ongoing disputes over how it should be
interpreted, one thing is painfully clear – we are now nearly 3 years into the
implementation of the law and still have not one iota of clarity about what it

“It is a trainwreck of epic proportions and it constitutes
an abject failure by the Michigan Legislature to provide the guidance that
communities across this state have been demanding for several years. The Legislature has left us to
our own devices to struggle with the legal confusion that they dropped in our

“And now, after we have done what we thought was correct
from a regulatory standpoint, the whole works is summarily tossed out by a

“The way forward is simple — our state lawmakers need to
step up to the plate and write a law that is clear and concise and that
respects the will of the people of Michigan as expressed in their overwhelming
support for the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes.”

Many Lansing dispensaries were closed today after the court
ruled unanimously Wednesday that patient-to-patient sales of marijuana are
illegal and not protected under state law.

Despite the mayor’s support for the medical marijuana
community, the City of Lansing had no plans to refund the dispensary license fees
for local dispensaries that closed today.

The city has received 48 applications for licenses since
July, City Clerk Chris Swope said, but no licenses have actually been issued at
this point.

“None have gotten through all the departmental approvals,”
Swope said.

Swope said he hadn’t heard of any talk about refunding the
$1,000 license fee to the dispensaries that applied. The fee is collected at
the application process, not when a license is actually issued, he said.

However, the Court of Appeals ruling may permanently halt
the process of issuing licenses, Swope said.

“I don’t know if we can issue a license to do something that
is not legal,” he said. “That is the outstanding question.”

Lawyer Matt Newburg advised dispensaries to remain closed
until further notice at a meeting of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association
on Wednesday night at Gone Wired
Caf on Michigan Avenue.

“Now you have no protections as businesses,” Newburg told
more than 30 patients and dispensary owners and operators who crammed into a
hot meeting area. “In Michigan,
dispensaries are illegal. You should not be open tomorrow.”

Many Lansing dispensaries took Newburg’s advice and did not
open today. The majority of dispensaries on Michigan Avenue that reopened
Wednesday afternoon after closing earlier in reaction to the
ruling did not open today, including TNT, Safe Harbor, Top Shelf Budz and
Compassionate Apothecary. Green Leaf, A-Plus Caregiver and Casa de Verde had
somebody at the location to answer the phone, but were not open.

However, a few stores did open for business today. Cloud 9
on Cedar Street opened to sell the tobacco products they carry as well as
smoking accessories such as pipes and vaporizers, but not marijuana. Great
Lakes Superior on Jolly Road was open to take donations for medibles, but not
to sell. Helping Hands Dispensary on Cedar Street planned to open later in the
day, but was not sure what services it would be providing. Green Solutions USA
on Pennsylvania Avenue opened for business as usual, but declined to say more.
The Popcorn Bag on Michigan Avenue also had their doors open but declined
comment. Later in the day, however, The Popcorn Bag was closed.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette hailed the court’s
ruling as a “victory for public safety” in a press release Wednesday. The
release said Schuette planned to send a letter to Michigan’s 83 county
prosecutors informing them that the ruling “empowers them to close
dispensaries” and file public nuisance actions against them.

"This ruling is a huge victory for public safety and
Michigan communities struggling with an invasion of pot shops near their schools,
homes and churches," Schuette said in the release. "Today the Court
echoed the concerns of law enforcement, clarifying that this law is narrowly
focused to help the seriously ill, not the creation of a marijuana