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Pot delivery is easy in Lansing — but illegal

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In Lansing, it is easier to get marijuana delivered to your door than it is groceries. But is it legal? No, because no business is yet licensed by both the state and the city for delivery. But that hasn’t prevented Lansing-area medical marijuana delivery businesses from operating in the open over the past two years.

The mobile app Weedmaps lists seven businesses operating out of either Lansing or East Lansing which are “delivery only,” meaning they do not have a brick-and-mortar sales location.

The delivery services in the area are operating below most radar. But for those who know of them, any Michigan resident with a state ID and an active medical marijuana card can call (or in some instances, text or email) these businesses and have marijuana flower, concentrate, edibles, dabs and many other cannabis-infused products delivered to their address that day, usually within an hour of placing an order. It’s often as quick as a DoorDash or UberEats order, and far quicker than the grocery delivery app Shipt.

“We’ve been open for over two years as a caregiver operation and we have had no problems,” said a local East Lansing-based owner of a delivery service who requested his name and business remain anonymous. “We serve patients in the area who need medication. I don’t have any more to say about that.”

After a follow-up question about how his business has been able to operate without a license to deliver, the owner refused to continue the interview. Multiple attempts to reach the other owners of the other six delivery businesses went unanswered.

“Anyone operating or delivering in the state without proper licensing is operating illegally,” said David Harns, the spokesman for the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs, which regulates medical marijuana.

LARA has licensed eight medical marijuana stores in the state, and each of those approvals happened in this all in May. None are within an hour’s drive of downtown Lansing. The closest shops approved for delivery are in Portage and Battle Creek. The others are in Detroit.

That means the seven marijuana delivery businesses in the greater Lansing area are operating unlicensed, without any official approval from the state.

But just because they are operating without a license doesn’t necessarily mean they will be punished. Harns says his department will assist law enforcement with information about unlicensed businesses, but after that it is a matter of priority for police.

“It is not LARA’s role to determine” if delivery services are breaking the law, said Harns. “If we hear of people who are performing activities that require a license, and those are reported to us, then we report them to law enforcement. Then, it is up to law enforcement to pursue those cases.”

The Michigan State Police has a unit to investigate unlicensed pot businesses. Its 40-member staff has spent its time till now investigating the backgrounds of license applicants, but now it is preparing to crack down on unlicensed services.

“We have and we will continue to review potentially illegal sales with county prosecutors, and at that point we will determine what criminal enforcement is warranted and when an investigation is warranted as well,” said Lori Dougovito, a public affairs representative with the Michigan State Police.

Whether investigations ever actually materialize, especially considering current laws are still being written for recreational sales beginning in 2020, is yet to be seen.

For the immediate future, Lansing area delivery services seem to be safe. Prosecuting unlicensed retailers does not seem to be an immediate priority, at least for the Ingham County Prosecutor’s Office.

“I am unaware of any active dialogue going on between us and the Michigan State Police with regards to the dispensaries” in Ingham County, said Ingham County Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mike Cheltenham. “We don’t ourselves go out and try to find out violations of the law, that’s for the police to do."

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