LANSING — State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor) announced a bill today to prevent existing medical marijuana dispensaries from being shut down by licensing delays. Last year, the Legislature passed bills to license medical marijuana businesses such as processors and dispensaries and to give local governments control over whether to allow such licensed facilities to operate in their municipalities. However, the bills did not specify a process for licensing medical marijuana businesses that are already established. The Medical Marihuana Licensing Board said today that existing businesses must close by Dec. 15 if they want to seek licensure. Because license applications will not be accepted before that date, businesses will be forced to shut down for an indefinite period while they wait for their applications to be processed.

“These businesses are caring for hundreds of patients and have invested in our communities by buying equipment, developing facilities, and training workers,” Rep. Rabhi said. “They should have a chance to show that they meet the licensing requirements without being penalized for investments they made before the licensure legislation was passed. Small businesses can’t afford to be shut down for months by unnecessary bureaucratic procedures.”

Rep. Rabhi’s bill would establish a timeframe for processing the license applications of existing medical marijuana businesses, and would allow existing businesses to continue operating while their applications are processed. Otherwise, all of the licensure requirements would remain the same. The bill also clarifies that current businesses who apply before February will not be barred from licensure solely on account of having operated without a municipal enabling ordinance before this became a requirement. Municipalities would retain their control over whether to allow licensed medical marijuana facilities.

“Shutting down responsible and beneficial businesses before they have the chance to apply runs counter to the goal of providing reasonable guidelines for medical marijuana businesses,” Rep. Rabhi said. “My bill provides a path for existing businesses to become licensed. Communities will have a choice of allowing medical marijuana businesses to operate or not, and many communities want to see these jobs and small businesses protected.”

Rep. Rabhi is continuing to seek legislative co-sponsors for the bill, which he plans to introduce on Thursday.