Ann Arbor

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DETROIT — Medical marijuana cannot be sold through private shops, the Michigan appeals court said Wednesday in a major decision that strikes at businesses trying to cash in on pot and cuts off a source for people with chronic ailments.

A three-judge panel said the 2008 medical marijuana law, as well as the state’s public health code, does not allow people to sell pot to each other, even if they’re among the 99,500 who have state-issued marijuana cards.

The court said Compassionate Apothecary in Mount Pleasant, Mich., can be immediately shut down as a “public nuisance.” The 3-0 decision means local authorities can pursue similar businesses, estimated at 200 to 300, in their communities.

It was not immediately clear whether they would, but state Attorney General Bill Schuette said he’s notifying all 83 county prosecutors.

“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 a statement. “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 free-for-all.”

Of course, not everyone shares that view. Chuck Ream, president of an Ann Arbor shop, called the ruling an “assault on democracy” nearly three years after voters approved marijuana as a way to relieve pain or other medical problems. He estimates that one-third of people with marijuana cards get pot through dispensaries, with others growing their own or getting it through a registered caregiver.

“If they want wheelchairs chained to every door at the Capitol, if they want to fight about this — oh, boy, they’ll have a fight,” said Ream of A2 Compassionate Healthcare. “There are a lot of people who don’t want to be drooling idiots on Oxycontin. They’ve found a medicine that relieves their pain and makes them happy.”

There is no dispute that the marijuana law makes no mention of dispensaries; it doesn’t even indicate how people should get their dope. It says people can possess up to 2.5 ounces of “usable” pot and keep up to 12 plants in a locked place. A caregiver also can provide marijuana.

Compassionate Apothecary, and owners of the mid-Michigan company, claimed they weren’t doing anything illegal because the law allows the “delivery” and “transfer” of marijuana. The business allows its 345 members to sell marijuana to each other, with the owners taking as much as a 20 percent cut. In less than three months, Compassionate Apothecary earned $21,000 before expenses after opening in May 2010.

“The ‘medical use’ of marijuana does not include patient-to-patient ‘sales’ of marijuana. Defendants, therefore, have no authority under the (law) to operate a marijuana dispensary that actively engages in and carries out patient-to-patient sales,” said appeals court judges Joel Hoekstra, Christopher Murray and Cynthia Diane Stephens.

Compassionate Apothecary attorney John Lewis said the shop was still in business Wednesday but likely not for long.

“It’s unfortunate for patients who benefit from medical marijuana. It’s going to affect their access to an uninterrupted supply,” Lewis said.

Ricky Lewis, 53, of Southgate said he’s relied on a Detroit-area dispensary to ease symptoms of glaucoma. He said he can’t afford to grow marijuana because lights add $300 to $400 to his monthly electricity bill.

When people are compelled to buy marijuana on the street, “you may not get what you need; you may get robbed,” said Lewis, no relation to the attorney.

Corrina Neff, a board member with the nonprofit Weidman Compassion Club in Isabella County, said the phone was ringing nonstop Wednesday from people “freaking out, panicking, wondering where they’re supposed to get their meds from.”

“We’re going to do everything we can to comply with the law, but I just can’t say no to people who are really suffering,” Neff said. “So I’m probably just going to give it to them for free and I’ll have to offset my costs somewhere else.”

Just this week, an ordinance took effect in Ann Arbor, a liberal college town, to license dispensaries. Many already operate there.

“How this works will have to be reviewed” because of the court ruling, city attorney Stephen Postema said.

Nick Tennant, who advises marijuana users at a Detroit-area trade school called Med Grow Cannabis College, said he wasn’t surprised by the decision. Opening a shop, he said, was “extremely risky.”

“Our law gives no specific guidelines to the operation of dispensaries — nothing. Other states do. Look at Colorado,” Tennant said.

Indeed, medical marijuana is more than 10 years old in Colorado. On July 1, dozens of rules took effect there allowing and regulating the sale of pot at commercial businesses. Sixteen states and the District of Columbia allow the medical use of marijuana.

It was the first time the Michigan appeals court has ruled in a case involving medical pot sales. The state Supreme Court, meanwhile, has agreed to hear appeals on other aspects of the medical marijuana law.

“This law was poorly crafted, poorly written, and there have been some unintended consequences,” Schuette, the attorney general, told The Associated Press.

Texas rolled into Ann Arbor, Mich., over the weekend after dominating its previous two matches. Michigan proved to be a tougher opponent for the Longhorns, but Texas still won 4-3 against the Wolverines.

The Longhorns began the match with strong performances from all three doubles teams and swept Michigan for the doubles points. The fifth-ranked tandem of Ed Corrie and Jean Andersen kicked things off with an 8-4 result against Michigan’s top team. Kellen Damico and David Holiner, as well as Ben Chen and Vasko Mladenov, also had impressive wins of 8-5 and 8-4, respectively.

“I thought we played very well in doubles,” said Texas head coach Michael Center.

Texas has won the doubles points in all three of its matches this year. That kind of consistency gives the Longhorns an early lead in their matches and proved to be the difference against the Wolverines.

Though this is a Texas team that has plenty of experience, a pair of underclassmen came through in crunch time to get the win.

Senior Damico and sophomore Mladenov both won their matches to give Texas a 3-1 lead, but Michigan fought back.

“I felt good going into singles, but Michigan started taking it to us. We got on our heels and never recovered at a few spots,” Center said. “I give Michigan a lot of credit.”

The Wolverines battled back with two more victories which put the match in the hands of sophomore Ben Chen. In a three-set match, Chen prevailed 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 to give Texas the win.

“Ben has worked really hard, and he has clinched all three of our matches this year,” Center said. “There were some key points in that third set, but he played tough and came through in the end. It was another great match for Ben.”

It was the first hint of adversity Texas faced so far this season. Previously, the Longhorns had been tearing opposing teams apart, but not Michigan. The match will serve as a primer as the team heads back to Austin this week for the ITA Kick-Off Weekend at Texas’ Penick-Allison Tennis Center. The Longhorns return to the court again on Saturday versus Hawaii.


This weekend, Texas will be making a trip to Ann Arbor to take on No. 25 Michigan.
The match against the Wolverines is coming on the heels of a dominant week for Texas, in which the Longhorns beat No. 19 California and dominated its match against Tulsa. Texas has had success in the past against Michigan, winning their last match 6-1 in 2010, as well as a perfect record against them in the Key Biscayne Invitational just two weeks ago. But that doesn’t mean that Texas will be able to coast their way through this one and come away with a victory.

“Obviously, playing them in Key Biscayne will be much different than playing them indoors at their home courts,” said head coach Michael Center.

Center isn’t shying away from the competition to start this season. Texas has already played one ranked team at a neutral site and will now be taking its show on the road to play another top 25 team in their own house.

“We want to play good teams,” Center said. “We want to see where we’re at and what we need to work on. Playing teams like California and Tulsa in tough environments showed us what we needed to do to continue to improve.”

Even with a tough non-conference schedule, Texas is primed for a great season and is ranked No. 5 nationally in the ITA preseason poll. The Longhorns also have the fifth-ranked doubles pair in the nation with senior Ed Corrie and junior Jean Andersen, who had a strong showing in the ITA National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in the fall. In addition to Corrie and Andersen, Texas has two more pairs in the top 25 — sophomores Ben Chen and Daniel Whitehead as well as senior Kellen Damico and redshirt freshman David Holiner.

Michigan is no slouch either, boasting a doubles team ranked in the top 30 and a singles player ranked No. 35 nationally.

“We’ll learn a lot more about the team this week when we play Michigan,” Center said.
Texas has a challenging road ahead of them before conference play begins, and it starts this weekend in Michigan.