His Patient Caregiver Services, 211 Salzburg, opened Jan. 3 and is at least the third business of its kind in the city selling or exchanging marijuana for medicinal use to those qualified under state law.
“I don’t want people thinking I’m a drug dealer,” said the 41-year-old Gwizdala, former owner of Gwizdala Construction. “I’m the same guy I was for the last 10 years but, after two back surgeries, I got into this.”
Bay City Police and city officials are reviewing if Gwizdala’s business, and the two others offering marijuana as medicine to patients, are violating city ordinance.
“We are going to do some research and (talk with lawyers and our zoning department) and see if there is an applicable city code that prohibits their operation,” said Bay City Police Chief Michael J. Cecchini. “And if there is, we will enforce that code.”
On Dec. 20, a zoning ordinance amendment was made to the city’s Code of Ordinances stating that “(a)ny business or organization in violation of local, state or federal law is prohibited from locating or operating within the corporate limits of the city.”
Gwizdala’s business, and others in Michigan, currently operate as medical marijuana dispensaries under state law. The dispensaries sell marijuana for medicinal use to members of Michigan’s medical marijuana program.
But the dispensaries, and related “compassion clubs,” are not specifically addressed in the state’s medical marijuana law and remain illegal under U.S. law.
In Bay City, the three operations include Patient Caregiver Services, Michigan North Medical Marijuana Institute, 316 S. Henry, and M.A.C.C., 1014 Marquette, a compassion club.
Officials say compassion clubs differ from dispensaries because the clubs are for certified medical marijuana patients and caregivers to come together, discuss issues, provide help and sometimes exchange marijuana between patients and/or caregivers.
Jim Bedell, Bay City’s planning manager, said under current city zoning, compassion clubs are not violating any laws.
“The compassion clubs, as long as they are doing what is legal under state law, they’re not going to be illegal under zoning,” Bedell said.
Yet Bedell said the state law says caregivers, who grow marijuana for certified patients of the program, can have up to five people they dispense to and no more. So even though dispensaries are not addressed in the law, any individual that provides marijuana to more than six patients is violating state law, he argues.
Bedell said the city does not have an ordinance specifically addressing medical marijuana facilities and the ordinance adopted in December pertains to any type of illegal facility, such as a brothel.
“We haven’t done that because it’s already being regulated thorough state law,” said Bedell, regarding a medical marijuana ordinance. “But law enforcement may have a different take on it.”
The legality of dispensaries remains a question for law enforcement and public officials across the state. There is no way for law enforcement to know who is a patient and who is a caregiver of any particular person, according to officials.
The Michigan Department of Community Health, which processes the medical marijuana applications and issues the licenses, maintains a confidential list of those who have obtained registry identification cards.
Gwizdala said in his case, lawyers drafted an operation manual from other state dispensary ordinances for his business, which currently has about 50 members. He said every gram of marijuana, which he does not grow but gets from other certified caregivers, is tracked coming in and out of the facility.
Gwizdala and other medical marijuana facility operators say the medical marijuana industry should be regulated, not shut down.
“I’m willing to do whatever it takes,” said Gwizdala, who plans to operate the facility as a nonprofit agency with profits going to Nathan Weidner Children’s Advocacy Center. “We want to be accepted by the community for what we are, which is a lawful, medicinal facility.
“Hopefully the city will work with us,” he said.
City Manager Robert Belleman said he believes medical marijuana facilities should be regulated, but also be subject to state and federal law.
“If they are not (operated correctly), it can become a problem area,” Belleman said. “They can be a negative image in the neighborhoods where they are located.”
One neighbor of Michigan North Medical Marijuana Institute says he doesn’t mind the facility, which opened almost a year ago and operates as a marijuana provider for certified patients, an educational institute and houses the Mid-Michigan Tri-City Compassion Club.
Robert Biskner, who lives across South Henry from Michigan North, said at first he was a little concerned with the facility, but so far no major problems have occurred.
“As long as you’ve got your card, I don’t have a problem with it,” said the 50-year-old Bay City resident.
David McDowell, director of security, training and operations at Michigan North, said the mainly free service the institute provides to its more than 600 members is needed and they, as Gwizdala, want to comply with state law.
“We just want to make sure people are educated,” said McDowell, who is also planning to operate the institute as a nonprofit. “It’s a wonderful business opportunity to educate.”
Gwizdala is hosting a law seminar at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Patient Caregiver Services. He said a lawyer and other officials are going to be on-hand to clarify questions patients and caregivers may have about the state’s medical marijuana program.
Officials from M.A.C.C. could not be reached for comment.
In December, Bay County Sheriff John E. Miller said the office didn’t plan to do anything about medical marijuana dispensaries operating in the county under the state law’s guidelines.
Cecchini and other officials said they agree the state law was vaguely written and it has caused some problems throughout Michigan.
According to the most recent statistics from the state health department, the department has issued 49,283 medical marijuana patient cards and received almost 88,000 original and renewal applications since April 2009.
via : mLive
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