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Medical Cannabis Terminology



I have been absent from these boards for several months for a number of reasons, chief among them, the lack of an internet connection in my ultra-rural, northern Michigan compound. While I have been fairly isolated, I have stayed in touch with the goings-on by slipping into town under cover of darkness to periodically surf the web. I've noticed that some posts, and many news stories use words that have a different meaning from the word the author was looking for, and I will attempt to clarify the terminology regarding medical cannabis entities.



Section 3 of our law explains exactly what a caregiver is; "Primary caregiver" means a person who is at least 21 years old and who has agreed to assist with a patient's medical use of marihuana and who has never been convicted of a felony involving illegal drugs." Nowhere in the state definition does it say a caregiver is a dispensary like our opponents have articulated. Is this an error on their part or are caregivers really a dispensary? Caregivers do dispense medical cannabis to patients so it's easy to see how they made that leap and why the public seems to be buying it. Further, I know some caregivers who are generating more revenue than lots of small businesses. And while these arguments may be accurate, our law is clear and unequivocal about what a caregiver is, just read Section 3.



A compassion club is exactly what Greg Francisco and I envisioned them to be, a community-based support network that assists medical cannabis patients and caregivers locally. These groups were requested to meet in a public facility such as a library, to expressly provide community outreach and help newcomers find the resources they need. We never intended for these entities to become collectives or smoke clubs, we always told club hosts that they would have an upper leg at establishing a "collective" by networking through the club, but the club was always supposed to be for local outreach.


Because these lines have blurred, the media and our opponents have successfully morphed the words Compassion Club into Dispensary. We need to publically clarify this in the media so everyone including law enforcement understands the difference.



A collective is formed when a group of patients and caregivers strike out beyond the Compassion Club and form a separate entity. Usually registered as a not-for-profit corporation (not a 501C3), these entities are not sanctioned by the MMMA and are not Compassion Clubs. A collective is a group of people acting individually, yet sharing in the common goal of producing and distributing medical cannabis exclusively for it's members. Unlike Compassion Clubs who generally operate on zero-balance budgets and support from it's members, Collectives usually generate enough revenue to rent or buy their own space, and pay employees and taxes.


A medical cannabis dispensing collective usually operates from a storefront or clubhouse, not a public place. A collective is a form of dispensary, kinda like a credit union is a type of bank. They both do the same thing, many times the only difference is fees and customer service.



A dispensary is a storefront business that distributes medical cannabis and operates fundamentally like any for profit business. Most of these entities are not-for-profit corporations (again not 501C3), but some actually operate as traditional for-profit businesses.


Are dispensaries legal or not? Nobody knows for sure, the courts have not told us yet, but they will. Do we need dispensaries? Absolutely! If you read the definition of caregiver, it actually calls them "primary caregivers". Section 4 further states.


"A primary caregiver who has been issued and possesses a registry identification card shall not be subject to arrest, prosecution, or penalty in any manner, or denied any right or privilege, including but not limited to civil penalty or disciplinary action by a business or occupational or professional licensing board or bureau, for assisting a qualifying patient to whom he or she is connected through the department's registration process with the medical use of marihuana in accordance with this act, provided that the primary caregiver possesses an amount of marihuana that does not exceed.....".


We would all agree that "primary caregivers", the same people LEO views as dispensaries, are restricted to transferring medical cannabis only to the patients they are directly registered to. A good argument could be made that dispensaries are needed as "secondary caregivers" to ensure as our law intends in Section 8a2, "The patient and the patient's primary caregiver, if any, were collectively in possession of a quantity of marihuana that was not more than was reasonably necessary to ensure the uninterrupted availability of marihuana for the purpose of treating or alleviating the patient's serious or debilitating medical condition or symptoms of the patient's serious or debilitating medical condition....". What happens when a patient's primary caregiver drops the patient, runs out of cannabis, or has a crop failure? Dispensaries will ensure you have access to the medicine you need, when you need it.


Aside from the distrust of dispensaries prevalent on these boards (for understandable reasons), most dispensary owners are not in favor of institutionalized growing because they understand it would strip patients and caregivers of their right to cultivate their own cannabis. Some dispensary owners are mom & pop operations just like caregivers and they understand the issue, and agree with the right to grow because most are patients too. Even the large dispensaries produce as much of their own medicine as they can to meet member demand, and to help lower prices and still generate enough revenue to sustain the business.


And because they are traditional businesses in a sense, they have operating costs. The cost to operate a dispensary can be enormous when you look at the way dispensaries will be required to operate in the future. Zoning ordinances will eventually force dispensaries to adopt uniform security measures that can cost thousands to purchase and maintain. While no dispensary owner has ever disclosed to me how much inventory they have, the cost to purchase enough medical cannabis treatment options (more than just raw cannabis) to sustain a dispensary could easily run into the tens of thousands of dollars. Don't forget the lights, heat, phones, employees, taxes, advertising, promotions, and other administrative costs. Oh, I almost forgot permits and legal fees. That's why dispensaries must charge up to $30 per gram for topshelf medicine. Most also have medicine available for under $15 per gram and under $300 an ounce. While still not cheap, those prices are reasonable for a "secondary caregiver" when your regular caregiver can't or won't provide.


All patients should select a primary caregiver, even if you choose to grow your own cannabis. Making your spouse or friend a caregiver extends the protections of our program to good people who may not qualify as a patient, but who regularly come in contact with cannabis.


I hope this clears up the confusion over the composition of the different entities. As members of this community I ask that you correct people when they improperly use one of these words so the media, the public, and our opponents all understand the difference. All of us are leaders within our own circles and that requires each of us to participate in the education of the masses.


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I appreciate this explanation providing clarity but how can a patient declare a caregiver and still have the right to grow their own plants ? I thought you only had one choice either or ? I would look on the whole program in a entirely new light if that was false . My access in poor health would be so improved if I could have two sources my own and someone elses . I feel like I haven't understood my true rights now for the past few years but thats part of being disabled - something our law enforcement doesnt consider using discreation for currentlybefore arrest and or forfeiture . I will inquire about this further if health allows me to attend the Norml meeting and by stopping by the tent at the Clarion . How would this work you find a caregiver that doesn't mind having less plant counts yet would supply some overages before they become such from the plants they do control for others ? Or do I missunderstand you and your talking only about those with others in their immeadiate household they trust explicitely ? Thank you in advance .

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I appreciate your clarifications.


I could completely get behind this


most dispensary owners are not in favor of institutionalized growing because they understand it would strip patients and caregivers of their right to cultivate their own cannabis. Some dispensary owners are mom & pop operations just like caregivers and they understand the issue, and agree with the right to grow because most are patients too.

If this is true, I can stand behind this also:

Even the large dispensaries produce as much of their own medicine as they can to meet member demand, and to help lower prices and still generate enough revenue to sustain the business.


IF and only IF all medicine be !00% Michigan grown.

You say 'most' dispensary owners". How many do you know?


Maybe it's time for me to get out to the 'secondary caregivers'

to find out personally what their all about. I think I like the mom and

pop model best and will start referring to them as "secondary caregivers".


I did not know I could assign a care giver and still possess my plants.

I will def look at my renew much closer this time.


Brad, do you mind if I copy this and send it to friends?


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Fascinating dialogue, Brad.


So if I am correctly understanding this as intended, a patient who is not currently his own caregiver, who has already selected a primary caregiver, can check a box on a form and become his own caregiver in addition to keeping his existing primary caregiver, right? As I understand it the answer is an emphatic YES.


But the 12-plant-count-limit-per-patient still applies, right? In other words, a primary caregiver grows for 1 patient, and this patient wants to dabble in growing for himself in anticipation of a possible interruption of supply from his primary caregiver, he can grow some of the 12 plants at his location, and this reduces the quantity of plants that his caregiver is allowed to grow for him, right? So of the 12 plants, if he wants to grow 6, then the caregiver is only allowed to have 6 "for him"?


Please share your thoughts with me. I guess that I cannot see a patient having 12 plants and a primary caregiver having 12 plants for him (total 24 plants) all falling under a single card.





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Correct, the 12 plant rule still applies and only one of you's can grow the plants, but it can be either of you. Your caregiver can grow your plants, and you can be a caregiver for someone else and grow their 12 plants. It's all how you designate those responsibilities on your Application Form.


Regarding the dispensary owners I know, I've met at least a dozen and I have not heard any of them even imply that we give up our right to grow just so they can continue to operate. Those people may be out there but they are not the majority in my opinion.


One thing that I really like about some dispensaries is the variety of treatment options. I found a processed cannabis product that works well for me at one Ann Arbor dispensary.

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The legality of secondary caregivers will be decided in the courts, but it will be one of the arguements used if dispensary owners get prosecuted. I recently posted a forum thread about the gloomy outlook (in my opinion) for dispensaries in Michigan.


Be careful what you ask for because it may get you!

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