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Can a Felon Own a Dispensary? Tips to Get Your Cannabis Business License


Can a felon own a dispensary in Michigan? Background check cannabis application

Can a felon own a dispensary in Michigan? Is there a background check for a cannabis application?

Below, we answer these common questions and guide you towards obtaining your cannabis business license.

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with the license application? Request a consultation now.

Can A Felon Own A Dispensary? Yes, But There’s a Catch

Yes, convicted felons can apply for a cannabis business license and/or be supplemental applicants for a license.

Per the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marihuana Act (MRTMA), the only immediate disqualifying conviction is if you were convicted of an offense involving distribution of a controlled substance to a minor.

In fact, the MRA offers discounts on application and licensing fees to those convicted of a marijuana-related felony conviction.

However, at their discretion, the Marijuana Regulatory Agency (MRA) can deny you based on your criminal history.

Specifically, an applicant with the below “pattern of convictions” will be denied:

“… pattern of convictions involving dishonesty, theft, or fraud that indicate the proposed marijuana establishment is unlikely to be operated with honesty and integrity.”

Offenses that fall under this category include (but aren’t limited to):

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with the application? Request a consultation now.

How to Disclose Criminal History on My Application

A full criminal history background check takes place during pre-qualification of the cannabis business license application.

Pre-qualification is the very first step in the cannabis licensing process.

An “applicant” includes the officers, directors, and managerial employees and anyone who holds any direct or indirect ownership interest in the business (supplemental applicants).

Even though a background check will conduct a background check regardless, you need to disclose all criminal history on the application.

Failing to disclose will result in an automatic denial of a license.

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with pre-qualification? Request a consultation now.

Municipal Applications

In addition to the state license application, many municipalities have their own criteria for selecting who they want to operate in their city.

It varies from city to city, but most municipal applications require applicants to disclose their criminal history as well.

Many municipalities have denied licenses based on applicant’s criminal history, even if their decision violates state law.

This leads to litigation that’d both time-consuming and costly.

Therefore, you need an attorney that specializes in cannabis law on your side in case this happens to you.

Need help on a municipal license denial appeal? Request a consultation now.

What If I Don’t Remember My Criminal History?

So, how are applicants expected to remember every single incident or encounter with law enforcement and whether that resulted in a misdemeanor or felony arrest, charge, or conviction?

Unfortunately, there is no good answer.

According to the MRA, every applicant is accountable for disclosing their criminal history.

If you’re a felon and you want to own a dispensary, you should independently investigate your (or your other “applicants'”) criminal histories before the MRA does.

Thankfully, you can conduct your own background check for your cannabis application with these inexpensive options:


Michigan’s Internet Criminal History Access Tool (ICHAT) charges $10 to search your name against available public records.

There are similar background check services available for other states.

If you lived in other states, you should check those databases as well.

However, ICHAT isn’t 100 percent accurate, as it depends on how often local courts report data.

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with the application? Request a consultation now.

2. Public Records Search/FOIA Request

If you remember a certain municipality or location where an incident may have occurred, you can search the courthouse’s website.

Or, you can visit the courthouse to request all public records under your name.

A FOIA request may be required before obtaining these records.

However, local record retention policies typically only require records to be held for a certain time period and then destroyed.

Depending on the time period, a paper record may not even exist.

3. FBI Background Check

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) also offers a background check.

You can file this electronically or by mail.

However, this method isn’t always 100 percent accurate either, as certain past incidents may not show up on the report.

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with the application? Request a consultation now.

What About Expungement?

Expungement is the process of clearing one’s criminal record.

Just recently, Michigan enacted new expungement laws that expand eligible offenses, including drug offenses and some crimes of dishonesty.

Therefore, once your applicable offense is expunged, you can state that you don’t have any felonies or misdemeanors on your cannabis business application.

Interested in expungement? Request a free consultation to get started with our criminal defense partner firm now.

Need Assistance Filing Your Cannabis Business Application?

So, can a felon own a dispensary?

Yes, but the journey can be both time-consuming and frustrating.

The methods listed above aren’t 100 percent accurate, but can help if you’re unable to remember your criminal history.

Cannabis law in Michigan is extremely complex and at the very least, requires professional advice.

Even during the initial stages of a cannabis business application, you need an experienced and proven cannabis attorney.

Interested in starting a cannabis business? Need help with the application? Request a consultation now.

Barton Morris
Barton Morris has been providing high-quality legal representation in the area of state and federal criminal defense for more than 20 years.
The Cannabis Legal Group has been providing our clients professional and quality legal assistance in all aspects of representation for years.

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