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New Baltimore City Council Has Mixed Feelings On Medical Pot Dispensaries

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January 23, 2012





The medical marijuana dispensary debate – which invokes passionate emotions between chronically ill patients and staunch opponents of pot shops across the state – moved a couple miles down the road Monday night.


The topic shifted from Chesterfield Township, the hotly contested home of Big Daddy's Hydroponics, to the quaint neighboring town of New Baltimore when City Council expressed mixed feelings about dispensaries.


Ultimately rejecting proposals to extend a moratorium on medical pot dispensaries in the city for one year and then failing to approve it for 90 days, a majority of council eventually agreed to extend the moratorium for 60 days. The caveat to the decision: council members voted to request the New Baltimore Planning Commission to bring ordinance language to council within 60 days, regulating the distribution of medical marijuana.


Citing impending court cases in Michigan, City Attorney Jack Dolan had advised council to continue its stance to prevent dispensaries in the city.


"The opinions right now are coming down that generally medical marijuana storage is not legal," Dolan said. "We recommend to the administration that the moratorium be continued."


Councilmen Jeffrey Christie, Ken Butler and Zack Stanton expressed support for medical marijuana dispensaries.


"So it really doesn't make no difference if the people voted for this? The government's going to shut it down regardless – or the Attorney General's Office," Christie said, referring to Michigan voters who passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in November 2008 and Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette's firm stance against dispensaries.


Banning regulated dispensaries when the medical marijuana act was passed by voters is contradictory, Butler said.


"That's like saying 'We all voted for (Rick) Snyder but Virg Benero is our governor,'" he said.


Butler said revolking options for people who cannot grow or harvest their own medical pot is horrific, considering the pains of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. If people know of the obstacles seriously ill patients face, they would be open to helping allievate their suffering, he said.


"My first wife died of breast cancer so I get a little wound up," he said after the meeting.


Councilwoman Florence Hayman expressed concerns over potential litigation if a dispensary came to the city.


"Look at Chesterfield and how much they spent," Hayman said of the Big Daddy's court battle.


The council also discussed keeping any dispensaries away from certain locations within the city, such as schools.


Earlier that day, Mayor Larry Smith, who did not vote on the matter, said state and federal stances on medical marijuana distribution give mixed messages that would be confusing for local law enforcement and residents.


"It's such a can of worms," he said.


The council majority voted last fall on a medical marijuana dispensary moratorium with Christie and Butler opposing it. Newcomer Stanton helped back up their stance this time. Councilwoman Susan Burkhardt was absent.


On Monday night, Big Daddy's spokesman Rick Thompson said the dispensary is still operational in Chesterfield Township. It must conform to the state medical marijuana act and decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals, he said.


Do you think dispensaries should be allowed in New Baltimore? Tell us in the comments section.




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