The number of licensed medical cannabis caregivers in Michigan dropped by almost half in 2013. The drastic decline is primarily attributable to changes in state law and a key ruling by the Michigan Supreme Court last year.  

The raw figures are startling. In 2012, Michigan had 50,188 licensed caregivers providing pot for the afflicted. However, last year there were only 27,046 providers in the state – this despite the number of registered patients in Michigan declining by less than 5 percent (from 124,131 in 2012 to 118,368 last year).

Nonetheless, the state made nearly $1 million more off the program through licensing fees in 2013 ($10.89 million last year compared to $9.9 million in 2012).

Caregivers may provide for up to five patients each and can grow up to 12 plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of flowers for each patient. Voters approved medical pot in Michigan in 2008.

The chief catalyst for such a metamorphosis was a February 2013 state Supreme Court ruling that decided the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act does not authorize storefront dispensaries, which provide easy access to medicine for those unwilling or unable to enlist a caregiver who cultivates.

But there were also several changes to state law in 2013 that impacted the prevalence of caregivers. The new laws prohibit anyone convicted of a felony in the last decade from being a provider – and those convicted of a violent felony can never be a caregiver. Additionally, any medicinal marijuana transported in a vehicle must be rendered inaccessible to the driver.

New restrictive regulations governing medical cannabis cultivation have also played a role in the caregiver decline. Now, outdoor plants may not be visible from an adjacent property when viewed from ground level, and plants must be grown within a stationary structure enclosed at all sides by chain-link fencing or equivalent material.

SB-660, the “pot for pharmacies bill,” was passed by the state legislature and signed into law by Governor Rick Snyder in December, but it only permits pharmacies to sell medical marijuana once it is rescheduled by the federal government