Marijuana issue goes back for more study

An ordinance amendment in Farmington Hills that would have made marijuana operations illegal, from a land-use standpoint, has been stalled.

The zoning ordinance amendment, which called for the prohibition of any land use that conflicts with federal law, was up for final reading and adoption at Monday’s city council meeting.

Council members and planning commissioners have studied the issue at length, but council now wants to see the ordinance adopted in Grand Rapids, to see if it might work for Farmington Hills.

The issue is whether a caregiver, who, under state law, is allowed to grow up to 60 plants for up to five registered patients, is growing as a commercial business in a home. If so, the proposed Farmington Hills ordinance would prohibit that and the caregiver would face a penalty.

But Councilman Barry Brickner points out that the state law precludes caregivers from being arrested for growing medical marijuana.

“We’re being asked to pass an ordinance that we can’t do anything with,” Brickner said. “Why are we passing something we can’t enforce?”

He said he read through the state statute and it is “extremely redundant and clear that you cannot prosecute caregivers.”

In Grand Rapids, an ordinance sets up special use provisions for the caregivers to grow marijuana as a home occupation. They can’t have the patients come to pick up the marijuana, they have to deliver it. Hills council members want to read that ordinance before taking action.

City Attorney Steven Joppich said it’s still an issue of federal vs. state law.

“Federal law states it’s illegal to use it, to possess it and to distribute it,” he said. “Frankly, most communities are struggling with this.”

Mayor Jerry Ellis said the council, after much discussion, believes people should have access to medical marijuana, but the problem is with companies wanting to set up growing operations in vacant warehouses and compassion clubs, where people gather to smoke marijuana, opening in commercial areas, for example.

Joppich emphasized that the proposed ordinance deals with land uses, so it would apply to situations such as those — not to people who grow or use medical marijuana in their homes.

“I think we can regulate in such a way to allow caregivers (to grow and distribute) while keeping our neighborhoods safe,” Brickner said. “(The Grand Rapids ordinance) allows caregivers to grow and sell, but it limits how they do it. This is to help the ill, to help the suffering, not to set up a business.”

Thomas Loeb, of Farmington Hills, who has a law firm in Farmington Hills, said the ordinance amendment, as proposed, would cause the city some problems. He is currently suing Bloomfield Township for a set of ordinances relating to medical marijuana.

“Your (proposed) ordinance is very poorly written,” he told the council Monday. “One of the first things you will have to do, when I sue you, is get a new law firm.”

He said the city cannot evoke federal law through city ordinance. Dealing with storefront issues relating to medical marijuana is understandable, he said, but the caregiver issue is off-base.

“If you think you’re going to get away with this, you’re wrong,” he said.

Ellis said he’s not threatened.

David Haron, of Farmington Hills, who served 14 years on the planning commission, said ordinances should address land-use issues like construction, not moral or political issues. He said he believes people should have access to medical marijuana.

“This act is dealing with relieving pain,” he said. “It’s not dealing with peddling drugs to students.”

He said in terms of enforcement, marijuana arrests are mostly made under state law, unless it’s a large marijuana operation that would likely be handled by the feds. He said the city has no obligation to enforce federal law.

The council will review the Grand Rapids ordinance at an upcoming study session to see if the proposed ordinance should be revised before it comes back for consideration. In the meantime, a moratorium on all requests relating to medical marijuana remains in effect.

via : Hometown Life

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