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Michigan Dispensaries to be Re-Branded as ‘Provisioning Centers’

Along with “dispensary,” Michigan officials are banning cannabis shops from using other common terms like “pharmacy” and “apothecary”.

Adam Drury

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Michigan Dispensaries to be Re-Branded as 'Provisioning Centers'
Sonya Yruel/Drug Policy Alliance

Michigan has thrown another curve ball at the state’s medical cannabis program. On Tuesday, officials with the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs published a list of more than a dozen terms medical marijuana dispensaries can no longer use.

Call Them What You Want, But Medical Marijuana Shops In Michigan Can No Longer Call Themselves Dispensaries

In a first for a medical cannabis state, retail providers of medical cannabis can no longer call themselves dispensaries. They cannot use the term in a store name, any branding, or any advertising.

“Dispensary” isn’t the only word Michigan regulators have nixed. State regulators are banning the use of 16 terms they say cannot apply to medical marijuana stores.

Beyond “dispensary,” the list includes other terms that commonly crop up in dispensary names. And then there are some that would be odd for a cannabis shop.

“Pharmacy,” “drug store,” “medicine store,” and even the more mystical “apothecary” are now strictly verboten. But so are more technical terms like “licensed pharmacy technician,” “doctor of pharmacy,” “certified pharmacy technician” or any of their abbreviations.

Before getting into etymological debates about the appropriateness of each term—”apothecary,” after all, comes from a Greek word that simply means “storehouse”—Michigan’s reason for the list has nothing to do with the accuracy of the terms themselves.

Rather, rules in Part 177 of the Michigan Public Health code state that only people who’ve met certain qualifications can use those terms. And budtenders at medical cannabis shops aren’t likely to meet those qualifications.

If Michigan’s dispensaries fail to comply, they risk losing eligibility for a license.

Michigan Dispensaries Must Re-Brand as ‘Provisioning Centers’

So shops must now stop using the most common term(s) for places where people can buy medical cannabis products. But for all that, they can’t make up their own.

Instead, LARA has mandated that dispensaries call themselves “provisioning centers“. The change, officials say, will ensure that medical cannabis shops comply with the state’s public health code. Some dispensaries have already made the switch.

In its advisory bulletin, LARA said: “the term ‘provisioning center’ includes any commercial property where marihuana [sic] is sold at retail to registered qualifying patients or registered primary caregivers.”

Indeed, the “h” is no accident, but the official spelling in any Michigan government documents pertaining to cannabis, reports the Detroit Free Press.

For many, spelling marijuana with an “h” evokes the Marihuana Tax Act of 1937, along with the wreckage of more than 80 years of government prohibition.

But the tone of LARA’s advisory is consonant with the attitudes of many government officials, as measured by their deeds. Or more precisely, lack thereof.

Last Friday, Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Licensing Board delayed the entire licensing process because one board member could not make a Monday meeting. So far, the state has not granted a single license to medical cannabis businesses applying to operate in the state.

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