Medical marijuana shops stuck in holding pattern

Kali Katerberg/Daily Mining Gazette Northern Specialty Health is the only medical marijuana facility still operating in the Western Upper Peninsula.

HOUGHTON — After statewide medical marijuana regulations were put into effect in 2017, the number of facilities in the Western Upper Peninsula is down to one.

Both Portage and Torch Lake Township have ordinances in place allowing the facilities with Portage allowing for three and one in Torch Lake.

In the case of the Torch Lake ordinance the single facility permitted was a previously operating dispensary called the Noggin Shop.

Once the ordinance was passed the facility picked up an application. However, a few weeks later, the business decided to pull out citing high costs, explained Supervisor Brian Cadwell.

“They said they had spoken to their accountant and their attorney and they decided not to pursue the licensing process through the state,” Cadwell said.

The facility is now closed.

“There is (an) ordinance for one facility in the township but nobody has taken us up on it,” he said.

The owners of the former Zen Garden that was forced to close in Calumet after the village took no action to opt in and allow facilities did pick up an application a few months ago but there have been no new developments Cadwell said. As for the Noggin Shop, Cadwell hasn’t seen any indication that they will try to return.

In Portage Township two applications were put in and the individuals paid the $5,000 upfront fee to the municipality. The processing fee is good for a year but nonrefundable as one applicant found out when attempting to get a refund, said Township Supervisor Bruce Petersen.

The second application was for a facility that is no longer in operation located in the Copper Country Mall.

Though the facilities didn’t pan out, Petersen said there is still interest, but most inquiries are from outside the area.

He gets calls once or twice each week asking about the ordinance wording and status.

With these changes, only Northern Specialty Health remains and the Houghton business is still awaiting approval from the state, a common issue with the new regulation.

The dispensary needs to be issued a license by June 15 when the emergency rules allowing their continued operation end. All the appropriate paperwork is in, said Penny Milkey, a general partner in the business. However, the state itself is behind on granting or rejecting those licenses.

“The state is moving very slowly,” she said.

Out of the around 400 applicants, Milkey has only heard of 12 making it through the first of the two licensing steps.

In the meantime, Northern Specialty Health is seeing new patients coming from the now-closed facilities.

“It’s very difficult,” Milkey said. “We’re taking on the people that used to go to a different facility first and so we’re trying to make them happy and feel comfortable here because we weren’t their first choice but now that everybody else is closed we are the only option temporarily at least.”