Durand passes marijuana dispensary moratorium

Durand has joined a long list of municipalities in the county and across the state that are giving themselves breathing space in deciding how to deal with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.

Monday, the Durand City Council unanimously approved a 180-day moratorium on opening marijuana dispensaries within the city limits while it considers where and under what conditions the facilities would be allowed.

“We aren’t here to try to evade the medical marijuana law in Michigan — people voted for it overwhelmingly,” City Attorney Charles McKone said at the regular council meeting.

“But when we get done, we want the health, welfare and safety of the city of Durand to be protected.”

According to Monday’s resolution, council members will use the six months to consider amending the city’s zoning ordinances and drug control ordinance.

Council members might opt to change zoning rules to limit “caregiver facilities” to certain areas of the city, disallowing them near churches, schools, city parks and motor vehicles, McKone said.

In addition, officials could require city inspections to ensure that caregivers are safely powering the lamps used to grow marijuana, he said.

“We don’t want someone getting killed in a fire because they don’t understand electrical safety,” McKone said.

The lawyer advised the council to work with city planners to create a strong ordinance that will withstand judicial scrutiny.

“The last thing I want to see is the city brought into lawsuits by overfunded groups looking for test cases.”

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, passed in 2008, allows qualified “caregivers” to dispense marijuana to people who have medical prescriptions for the substance without fear of prosecution.

But the law is silent on many issues, including whether caregivers can open facilities for the distribution of marijuana to patients. The law’s vagueness, together with the continuing illegality of marijuana under both state and federal law, is raising questions and prompting lawsuits.

“It’s all going to end up in the hands of the state supreme court,” McKone said. “And there’s a good possibility the court will rule the law unconstitutional.”

Councilman Tom VanRiper asked McKone if a moratorium would expose the city to liability. The lawyer responded that the city is allowed a “reasonable amount of time” to revise its ordinances in response to the act.

Cameron Canute, a council member who suffers from chronic ailments, said his physician offered to give him a card allowing him to purchase marijuana from a caregiver or grow up to 12 marijuana plants himself.

He said he turned the card down, though he is not opposed to the law.

“I think it’s good for those who don’t abuse it,” he said after the meeting.

McKone said he is less concerned about individual growers than “someone who’s setting it up like a business in your downtown or elsewhere without proper zoning.”

The city has not been approached by any medical marijuana caregivers seeking a permit for a dispensary, he said.

Currently under Michigan Medical Marijuana Act moratoriums are Ovid, Caledonia Township and Shiawassee County’s unchartered townships. Council members in Ovid recently discussed changing the village’s rules to require blacked-out windows, surveillance cameras and security guards for caregiver facilities. Owosso City Council members Monday shot down a proposed moratorium for the second time by a 5-2 vote. Owosso Township officials are still mulling the  options.

“Half the cities in Michigan have moratoriums right now,” McKone told Durand council members.

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