Heights council OKs ban on marijuana dispensaries

DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Marijuana dispensaries and grow centers will not be allowed in the city according to a new ordinance, which will still allow registered patients and caregivers to use it for medicinal purposes under state law.

City Council unanimously approved the zoning ordinance amendment Tuesday following its second reading. The ordinance will go into effect upon publication.

It prohibits land use contrary to federal, state and local laws.

Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke said the ordinance as its written is not designed specifically for

However, he said the city has no interest in prosecuting anyone in concurrence with state law in regards to medical marijuana.

An alternate version of the ordinance approved by the Planning Commission would’ve allowed medical marijuana dispensaries and manufacturing facilities in commercial and industrial zoning respectively.

Rick Coogan, Planning Commission chairman, supported this version that he said would have been more on the side of patients by making help for them more accessible.

He understands why council approved the ordinance it did, he said.

While state law now allows marijuana possession and use by authorized patients and caregivers, federal law still classifies marijuana as a prohibited drug.

The ordinance will prohibit marijuana-related businesses since federal law doesn’t allow businesses to manufacture or distribute controlled substances.

A primary concern of council during its discussions was the city’s vulnerability to being sued depending on what its ordinance allowed or not.

Coogan said he expects the city will be monitoring the American Civil Liberties Union lawsuit against Birmingham, Bloomfield Hills, and Livonia for their ordinances, which are similar to the ordinance council chose.

If the communities are in danger of losing, Coogan said Dearborn Heights could end up changing its ordinance.

Councilwoman Janet Badalow asked Miotke when guidance from these cases might be available.

The ACLU lawsuit is currently in Wayne Circuit Court, Miotke said. He said he expects this issue to eventually go before the Michigan Supreme Court.

Coogan said there are already people abusing state law on marijuana, but it can really help those who have a genuine need for it.

He hopes it will continue to be accessible for patients and caregivers, he said. He said he’s surprised people are still so apprehensive about marijuana and the stigma surrounding it.

“I really struggle with it myself sometimes,” Coogan said.

Councilman Tom Berry said he’s fine with the approved ordinance. It gives leniency to caregivers so they can continue to do what they need to and it also considers patients, he said.

Berry said he’s in favor of some kind of legalization of marijuana, but it needs to be regulated and managed better than it has been so far by the state.

Many residents have been concerned about this, Badalow said.

“It has been a struggle I think for all of us,” she said.

Bruce Cain, resident and drug policy activist, said he’s cautiously optimistic about council’s decision. He said his worry was the city would try to prosecute patients and caregivers who are in compliance with state law.

“I’m just relieved you’re doing what you’re doing,” he said.

Cain said he supports the complete and untaxed legalization of marijuana. It is the only way the country will stop the drug cartels, he said, and it would make cheap medicine widely available.

Marijuana is not a dangerous drug, Cain said. He said it should at least be treated the same as alcohol, which is more dangerous.

Councilwoman Elizabeth Agius disagreed on how dangerous marijuana is. She said the gateway implications of marijuana are dangerous because it leads to drugs like heroin.

Cain said the gateway theory has been debunked.

via : Press & Guide

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