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Cities Across State Struggle With How To Handle Marijuana Dispensaries




This was in our paper the other day, This is the link http://www.argus-press.com/articles/2010/04/19/top_stories/news1.txt


OWOSSO - The passage of The Medical Marijuana Act by Michigan voters in 2008 opened the door for the legal use of marijuana for medical purposes.


However, the new law, which did not outline any way for marijuana to be distributed to patients, has left local municipalities scrambling to figure out ways to monitor or regulate marijuana dispensaries and growing operations in their own jurisdictions.


According to James McCurtis Jr., a public information officer for the Michigan Department of Community Health, the state agency charged with administering the Act, the law lacks language that outlines the distribution of marijuana.


“The ‘Michigan Medical Marijuana Act' does not specifically address marijuana dispensaries,” McCurtis told the Michigan Municipal League, a group that lobbies and provides administrative services to Michigan cities. “Since the law in Michigan does not address dispensaries or offer any regulating system for them, the Michigan Department of Community Health interprets the law as saying that it is illegal to operate a marijuana dispensary.”


While states are passing laws to allow medical marijuana, the production and use of the plant remains a federal crime.


Despite the MDCH's stance on dispensaries, many municipalities across the state have taken steps to pass their own legislation regulating medical marijuana dispensaries in their areas.


In September, Grand Rapids approved a six-month moratorium on issuing permits or licenses for the sale or dispensing of medical marijuana in order for city officials to approve zoning regulations for these new types of businesses.


The city cited the move as a “proactive measure to protect the public health, safety and welfare” when it approved the moratorium.


However, some cities, such as Roseville in Macomb County, have taken steps to approve extensive city ordinances on the management of medical marijuana dispensaries within the city limits.


In October, the Roseville City Council approved an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate in nearly every type of property zoned by the city - excluding residential zones.


The Roseville ordinance states that no dispensaries inside the city will be able to operate as a home-based occupation or be located within 1,000 feet of any residentially zoned district or parcel used for residential use.


The ordinance also stated that dispensaries could not operate within 1,000 feet of any other dispensary, church or school.


The way in which the dispensaries would be able to operate was also covered by the Roseville ordinance.


According to the Roseville ordinance, all activity related to the Michigan Marijuana Act, including growing and distributing, would have to be indoors; smoking or consumption of marijuana would not be allowed on site at any dispensary; no one under the age of 18 would be allowed inside a dispensary without a parent or guardian; dispensaries would not be allowed to sell any sort of paraphernalia associated with marijuana use; and, dispensaries only would be allowed to grow up to 60 plants.


The Medical Marijuana Act allows primary caregivers, or those licensed to grow and provide marijuana to patients covered by the Act, to grow up to 12 plants for each of the five patients they can be providers for.


Cities such as Niles in Berrien County, also have passed ordinances allowing dispensaries to operate within its city limits.


According to an ordinance passed by the Niles City Council in May 2009, the location where a primary caregiver can grow, cultivate or otherwise provide service cannot be within 1,000 feet of a drug-free school zone.


The Medical Marijuana Act made no reference to the use, growth or distribution of medical marijuana in relation to drug-free school zones.


Cultivation, growing or distribution would not be allowed to occur at a location in which “any other commodity, product or service is also available,” a single location can only be used by one caregiver, and no consumption of marijuana would be allowed to occur at any primary caregiver's location for cultivation or growing, or at a caregiver's legal residence unless the caregiver is a qualifying patient, according to Niles' ordinance.


However, some cities across the state have approved ordinances that have all-but eliminated the chance of a medical marijuana dispensary opening in their area.


Officials in Wayne County's Garden City passed an ordinance in October that banned anyone that provided assessments and/or certifications under the Medical Marijuana Act from keeping, storing or distributing any controlled substances.


Although legal for medical use in the state of Michigan, marijuana is still listed as a level one controlled substance by the federal government.


The Garden City ordinance also banned any businesses that provides assessments and/or certifications under the Medical Marijuana Act from violating any federal law, which still forbids the possession, use or distribution of marijuana.


Livonia has also enacted a change to its zoning ordinance that would ban all potential marijuana dispensaries from opening inside it's city limits.


According to the zoning change, “uses for enterprises or purpose, that are contrary to federal, state or local laws or ordinances are prohibited,” inside the city of Livonia.


Owosso interim city manager Donald Crawford said the Livonia ordinance would likely set the benchmark for the ability of a city to limit the extent of marijuana dispensaries inside its limits as it works its way through potential court challenges.


Crawford said the city is aware of other municipalities attempting to change their zoning ordinances in regards to marijuana dispensaries, but he said Owosso is not likely to jump to the forefront of the communities changing its regulations.


“I think right now that we have enough communities in the state that are trying to address it,” Crawford said.


However, he did say that the city would likely address the issue at some point after many of the legal challenges have been sorted out.


“Probably at some point we will probably address that,” Crawford said.


Under Owosso's current zoning regulations, Crawford said a medical marijuana dispensary would be able to open up in the city limits without having to be approved by the city. However, he said he is not aware of any distributor looking to set up shop.


Crawford said states like California have shown that some sort of regulation is needed to prevent multiple dispensaries from opening up right next to each other, which could limit the variety of stores in a city's business district.


“It really kind of screws up your downtown area,” Crawford said about too many dispensaries opening up next to one another.


Merilee Lawson, the Corunna assessor/planner, said after attending a seminar on zoning laws in relation to marijuana dispensaries, the city has made the conscious effort to not address any zoning changes.


“We determined that there a fair amount of checks and balances in the law,” Lawson said.


Laingsburg city treasurer Paula Willoughby also attended a seminar on marijuana dispensary zoning.


Willoughby has been advised by the Laingsburg City Council to make a presentation to the city's planning commission on the options the city has when it comes to regulating marijuana dispensaries.


Like the MDCH, Willoughby said opening a dispensary is not allowed under the law.


“It is illegal to have a dispensary,” Willoughby said.


She also said dispensaries are not addressed in the city's current zoning law, so it would be unlawful for one to open in the city.


“It would not be a legal use,” Willoughby said.


However, like Crawford, Willoughby said the city will continue watching other cities and working with the Michigan Municipal League for guidance on regulating marijuana dispensaries


Whats next on my things to do? Or start






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