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Southfield Public Hearing


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There was a public hearing on Dec. 13 about regulating dispensaries in Southfield, MI. Due to poor attendance, it has been rescheduled to Jan. 18th.

 

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"Council discusses medical marijuana dispensaries

Planning Commission recommends allowing with strict regulations

JENNIE MILLER C & G Staff Writer

Published: December 2, 2010

SOUTHFIELD - Members of the Southfield City Council reopened the discussion on medical marijuana dispensaries Nov. 22, four months after a moratorium was issued and three weeks after the Planning Commission recommended allowing them, under strict regulations. "I imagine this is the first of many discussions we'll have on this item," said Terry Croad, city planner. "This law was carefully constructed at the state level with a lot of loopholes you coul d drive a truck through. We're continuing to look at our options. … We vetted this quite extensively." The recommendation to council is to allow medical marijuana dispensaries to operate within the city limits in light industrial districts pursuant to the city's zoning ordi- nance. The opening of such a facility would be subject to review and special approval by the Southfield City Council once it has been reviewed and recommended by the Planning Commission.

Only one caregiver - an individual authorized by the state to cultivate and sell marijuana for up to five qualified patients - would be allowed per facility. According to the state law, a caregiver is allowed up to 12 plants, or 2.5 ounces of cultivated marijuana, per patient.

Any facility would be required to have a 200-foot minimum setback from all homes or residentially zoned districts, adult regulated uses, schools, churches, child care facilities, parks and drug-free zones, according to the draft language proposal the Planning Commission recommended.

Thirty-two properties in the city would qualify as potential locations, given this criteria.

Concern among council was how to regulate the opening of dispensaries and enforce their abidance of the law if they are allowed in the city.

"This approach allows these facilities to be regulated through a process," Croad explained when City Councilman Sid Lantz expressed concern that the city would be inundated with dispensaries if the moratorium were lifted. "We would know exactly where they would be located, and they would have to meet all of the tests in order to be approved. This would give the Police Department the knowledge of where they are. We feel that this option for consideration, from a land use perspective, is the best way to regulate and control any negative impacts that they may have on neighboring properties." Lantz and Councilwoman Joan Seymour suggested the city extend the moratorium, both having serious concerns about the matter. "I'm a little bit concerned about the fact that our light industrial facilities are along Eight Mile," Seymour said of where the dispensaries would be located if the moratorium were lifted and if the zoning regulations recommended by the Planning Commission were approved. "I'm all for people who need this for medical reasons to have access to it. But I'm not sure this is the best answer for this at the moment. It could impact property values. And we spent a lot of time for a lot of years establishing those light industrial (districts). I would rather to see it in a medical facility such as a hospital or a clinic where the coming and going of people could be observed or controlled. That to me seems like a better answer to the type of establishment that ought to control this." Croad explained to Seymour that his department explored the possibility of zoning the dispensaries as medical office uses. However, he said, that would open up the possible locations to a far greater number.

"While that approach is a good one and has been considered, it may allow for many more," he said.

But Seymour further expressed concern that other cities, like Livonia, are embroiled in lawsuits on the matter.

"Maybe we would be better served by waiting to see what happens with these lawsuits," she said. "It seems like we're in a hurry. Maybe it would be wise to wait. Extend the moratorium. That would be my preference." City Councilwoman Janna Garrison was adamant that the city not extend the moratorium, citing the people's will as expressed on the ballots as reason enough to move forward.

"This drug helps to relieve people of their suffering, and almost 70 percent of our residents have said yes to this, so I think it is incumbent upon us to move on this," Garrison said. "I'm not for another moratorium, because it's been two years. So I think we should start small, as controlled as possible, learn from it, and if we have to revise, we can revise. I really don't like that right now everything borders Eight Mile. … I really don't care for that, but that's where we put all the light industrial, so that's where it is. But I think we need to move forward. We've got people suffering, right here in the city, who could use this. I don't agree with another moratorium based on outdated thoughts of what marijuana is, when the residents have said yes. That was a huge turnout in 2008." The measure to legalize marijuana for medical purposes was approved in November 2008 by 63 percent of Michigan voters, 69 percent in Southfield.

City Councilman Ken Siver agreed.

"This didn't squeak by in November 2008," he said. "It was passed by a healthy majority statewide and an even higher majority in Southfield. I think some of the approach here to me makes absolute sense. This isn't something that's going away anytime soon, so why not have a plan in place that helps us control it. I really support what Terry has laid out here. I think it's the smart way to really address this." He said there may be some misconceptions on council about what a dispensary is.

"These aren't smoking dens. These aren't the opium dens of the last century," Siver said, adding that he has personal reasons for supporting the initiative. "For me, this is very personal in that my mother had cancer. She was a professional woman; she was a very responsible person. She had numerous operations, and all of those treatments that, to me, were worse than the disease. And the one thing that gave her some relief from the suffering was marijuana tea. She couldn't smoke it, it was too harsh, but marijuana tea settled her and relieved some of the suffering from this disease, which was fatal. There are people that are really, really in need. For her, it was a great help, and unfortunately at the time, she was living in Oregon and it was illegal at that time, but people got it to her, and it's a shame that that's what it took. I don't favor waiting on this. I think now's the time." Mayor Brenda Lawrence also agreed that the moratorium should not be extended.

"You can sit on a moratorium, but sooner or later we're going to have to sit at the table and figure out a policy," she said. "This is a vote of the people. I think it's incumbent upon the city to control it. … I think it's extremely important that we have the police in there and have a strong input into this policy so there is a strong expectation of our community that we will regulate this." The matter is expected to be back before council during its next committee of the whole meeting, Dec. 6. A public hearing has been scheduled for Dec. 13. The moratorium will expire on Jan. 31, 2011. "

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