The unclear distinctions regarding the difference between dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the medical marijuana ordinance currently pending before Ann Arbor City Council caused one local medical marijuana grower to file a lawsuit against the city.
Ann Arbor resident Tony Keene — owner of the medical marijuana cooperative Hydro Med on South Industrial Highway — filed a lawsuit against the city of Ann Arbor on Feb. 17, which questions the differences between the two definitions as outlined in the proposed ordinance. Keene said he decided to file the lawsuit after speaking before City Council several times and not seeing any change to the ordinance. City officials said the lawsuit will have little effect on the outcome of the ordinance, as it is still being revised.
Currently, the ordinance does not clearly define what a dispensary is. The ordinance currently states that a “dispensary means a medical marijuana dispensary.” Cultivation facilities, meanwhile, have a more detailed definition.
“(Cultivation facilities are a) structure or each space in a structure that is separately owned or leased by a person other than the owner of the structure, in which marijuana plants are being cultivated other than as a medical marijuana home occupation,” the current ordinance states.
Keene said he filed the lawsuit in the Washtenaw County Trial Court to shed light on what the city is trying to authorize. He said he doesn’t know how to differentiate between dispensaries and cultivation facilities by reading the current language of the ordinance.
In addition to having certain ambiguous definitions, Keene said “patients and caregivers have been overlooked” in the ordinance.
Keene added that he considers himself to be a caregiver and finds dispensaries to be unnecessary and detrimental to the reputation of the medical marijuana industry. He said he would like the city to clearly define the terms because citizens — especially those in the medical marijuana business — have the right to know how the city defines different establishments.
He also said he would like to have clear regulations, like guidelines on how to license the medical marijuana companies, set before the City Council votes on the ordinance.
“The definition makes all the difference in the law,” he said.
The city has had a moratorium on new medical marijuana businesses since August. Once the moratorium is lifted, officials speculate only a few new businesses will become licensed.
Keene said since he is following the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act — which has allowed registered patients to use medical marijuana in the state since April 2009 — he doesn’t think his business will be at risk of being shut down by the city.
City Council Member Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) said the lawsuit won’t affect the legislation unless a judge orders the changes since the council is currently in the process of editing the ordinance and nothing has been made permanent.
The next step regarding the ordinance will be a final reading at a City Council meeting followed by a hearing, Briere said. But at any point in the process the ordinance can be amended, she said.
City Attorney Steve Postema wrote in an e-mail interview that he thinks it’s strange Keene is challenging the medical marijuana ordinance before it has been finalized and that he doesn’t think the lawsuit will go much further.
“Such a lawsuit has no legal merit and will likely be dismissed by the court,” Postema said.
Like Briere, Postema said since City Council is still considering various aspects of the ordinance, he doubts the lawsuit will have any influence on the proposal and its language.