Houghton dispensary gets 1st UP approval

HOUGHTON — The guessing game is over for Northern Specialty Health, which was approved for a medical marijuana license Thursday morning.

The Medical Marijuana Licensing Board approved Northern Specialty Health’s request by a 4-1 vote. It had received pre-qualification approval last week by the same margin.

“We feel honored to be given this opportunity to serve the medical marihuana patients,” co-owner Penny Milkey said in an email after the hearing. “It took a lot of hard work, and we couldn’t have done it without our amazing staff and wonderful patients.”

The approval is the first for a U.P. dispensary. Milkey thanked the city of Houghton for allowing the dispensary to operate.

The dispensary had recently been at risk of shutting down, as the state’s Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs had set an Oct. 31 deadline for all businesses to receive their final licenses or shut down medical marijuana sales.

A Court of Claims ruling last week halted the deadline, pending another hearing Friday. Whatever that decision is, it won’t impact Northern Specialty’s license, Milkey said.

The license was one of seven applications for a state operating license on Thursday’s agenda. Eighteen other businesses applied for pre-qualification.

The licensing comes days after Michigan voters approved recreational marijuana in Michigan. Asked if Northern Specialty Health would pursue expanding to recreational marijuana, Milkey said the city of Houghton would first need to approve it. Setting up the recreational regulatory structure for the state is also expected to take more than a year.

“It’s a misconception a lot of people have,” Milkey said. “NSH is a medical marijuana provisioning center, and legalization doesn’t change that.”