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Flint Draws 'line In The Sand,' Cracks Down On Marijuana Dispensaries

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FLINT, MI -- Police Chief James Tolbert says the city has begun a crackdown on marijuana dispensaries, ordering multiple businesses to shut down because they are operating outside the law.


Tolbert said Tuesday, April 21, that police have begun visits to dispensaries after initial investigations showed many appeared to be operating with building code or licensing violations.


The police chief said "multiple" storefronts were ordered to shut down immediately and others were cited for code violations, but said the crackdown is ongoing. Tobert said he did not have more specific information immediately.


No arrests were made as of Tuesday afternoon, he said.


"We're drawing a line in the sand," Tolbert said. "They can't operate as provisioning centers or as a dispensary to patients" without meeting requirements of a new city ordinance that regulates the businesses.


Tolbert said the businesses have been made aware of the requirements to continue operating.


Danny Fuller, manager of Sweet Leaf medical marijuana dispensary, said police officers visited the store at 400 S. Dort Highway, asking questions regarding the shop's license.


Fuller said the two officers had a clipboard and appeared to be going around to the medical marijuana shops throughout the city.


Fuller said Sweet Leaf is in the process of obtaining a proper license and in the meantime has decided to stop distributing medical marijuana in order to stay in full compliance with the law.


Cassandra Krause, owner of Michigan Compassion Center at 1222 Glenwood Ave., said she had a similar interaction with police.


"I'm not concerned about being shut down," she said, adding that she has been working closely with the city on licensing and zoning ordinances. "They asked me to close to the public, and I can reopen after I'm in compliance."


Krause, too, is in the process of obtaining a proper license. She said she will continue to work with the city's planning and zoning department in order to stay compliant.


"The atmosphere does not seem very hostile," Krause said of the police visit. "We just need to go through their process and keep going through these hoops."


The number of medical marijuana dispensaries in the city has been on the verge of rocketing up thanks to the lifting of what was a three-year moratorium on the

businesses while the city developed its new ordinance.

Several new dispensaries have been approved by the city Planning Commission since a new ordinance was approved last September, but many -- as well as locations that had been grandfathered -- still required background checking and building inspections earlier this year.


The new ordinance regulating the provisioning centers highly restrict where they can locate and under what conditions, but it hasn't stopped a rush of interest in what had been a closed market.


Flint's zoning administrator has spoken to more than 60 individuals in recent months, Director of Planning and Development Megan Hunter has said, hoping to eventually stake a claim to the limited spots available because of zoning restrictions.


The new ordinance mandates that dispensaries be more than 1,000 feet from any church, park, school or other dispensary.

In addition to eight locations that were grandfathered at the time of the moratorium on new dispensaries, six more have been approved by the Planning Commission and three rejected in recent months, according to city records requested by The Flint Journal under the Freedom of Information Act.


Tolbert said some dispensaries haven't waited to get the proper approvals before jumping into business.

The chief said police were checking on as many as 26 dispensaries that may have been operating or preparing to open.


"At some point, we had to draw a line," he said. "It's real simple. If you want to do this business, apply for the license and do everything" you need to in order to be in compliance.

Flint City Council members have said they were worried by the potential for an explosion in new provisioning centers opening under the new ordinance.


"The medical marijuana people are going to take over the hospital," said 2nd Ward Councilwoman Jackie Poplar. "They'll lay at home feeling good and they'll still be dying."



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that is such an odd quote. hard time wrapping my head around what shes trying to say.


the reporter clarified it

Ron Fonger | rfonger1@mlive.com 16 minutes ago



@raholmes123 @Wonderwhy She was talking about people using marijuana in place of conventional medicine.


Sorry for the confusion.

Edited by t-pain
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'No need to panic,' says marijuana dispensary owner in reaction to Flint crackdown


FLINT, MI — Don't panic.

That's the word from one Flint medical marijuana dispensary to patients who use the drug a day after the city began cracking down on illegal dispensaries.

"If you haven't been approved, don't operate," says Ben Horner, owner of MI Organic Solutions, located at 3549 S. Dort Highway. 

Horner, who opened the first dispensary in Flint five years ago, says the enforcement of the new ordinance is "commendable" and simply a part of the process of owning a business. 

"Navigating that process to get licensed and approved through a city is a daunting task even for people that are experienced. So this is no different if you were applying for any other business license," Horner said. "Sometimes, it takes going through several hoops to make that happen but that's just the city doing a good job. There's no reason to panic."

On Tuesday, April 21, police visited marijuana dispensaries after an investigation revealed that many businesses were operating with building code or license violations. Many storefronts were forced to shut down. 

Horner says regulation of medical marijuana dispensaries addresses "Bad apples who are not in the true spirit of helping sick people are weeded out, no pun intended." 

Aware of other dispensaries in the city shutting down due to the ordinance, Horner suggests that anyone interested in opening one take the necessary steps to work with the city, and have patience. 

"There are some other locations that had to close because they had not filed appropriate paperwork and doing that through diligence, but they'll get on board eventually," he said. "I really don't look at this as a bad situation, I just think it's a part of the process." 

Daryl Simpson, one of the owners of Hemphill Wellness Center, said he has not noticed an increase in patients from Flint at the 3365 Associates Drive medical marijuana dispensary in Burton. In fact, over the past few weeks, he said business at the dispensary has plateaued.

Simpson said he suspects the plateau could be attributed to the increase of dispensaries around Flint since the lifting of the three-year moratorium on the businesses. He said he would probably expect patients to flock to locations outside of the city for their medicine if dispensaries in the city of Flint stop distributing medical marijuana.  

Dorielle Edgin, who visited MI Organic Solution, uses medical marijuana for her health conditions and says Horner and the team care about the well being of their patients. Edgin believes the city and law enforcement are making dispensaries a bigger deal than than needed. 

"I think it's silly, because marijuana is basically legal now. So I guess it's just their way of keeping their thumb on everybody," Edgin said. "I have faith in our police, I do. I give them credit for what they do, but when it's an actual legal medication now it just seems they're making a big stink [by] trying to make it harder for the people out here making a living."

-- Flint Journal reporter Kurt Nagl contributed to this report.


Edited by knucklehead bob
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