At its meeting last night, the Ann Arbor City Council postponed voting on an ordinance that would set city-wide regulations for medical marijuana.
The proposed ordinance was designed to enforce the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, which passed in 2008 but did not provide guidelines for how cities and municipalities should regulate it.
In early August, the council placed a 120-day city-wide moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries in order to give officials time to draft a regulatory ordinance. However, businesses already in existence like MedMar Compassionate Healthcare on Packard Road and the Liberty Clinic on Main Street were excluded from the moratorium.
A draft of that ordinance appeared before City Council at its Oct. 6 meeting for a preliminary reading.
Among the key issues addressed in the proposed ordinance are the requirements that dispensaries cannot stand within 1,000 feet of schools and cannot extend their business outside the premises.
The ordinance also establishes rules for dispensary operations, including no smoking on the premises, no drive-in dispensaries and a restriction on customers under the age of 18 without an accompanying parent or guardian.
Since the Oct. 6 preliminary reading, city officials made a series of additions to the ordinance that elaborate on certain “reasonable restrictions” regarding the growth and use of medical marijuana.
These additions include a mandate that dispensary owners sign an annual zoning compliance permit as well as a series of guidelines for medical marijuana in single-family homes.
In requesting a postponement, council member Marcia Higgins (D–Ward 4) said council members need additional time to consider the proposed changes before voting on the issue. With Higgins’ postponement approved, council is set to vote on the ordinance at its Dec. 22 meeting.
Addressing council at the public forum portion of last night’s meeting, Charmie Gholson — managing editor of a quarterly marijuana advocacy publication entitled The Midwest Cultivator — said the ordinance could encourage retaliation in the sense that by being prohibitive it would create an opportunity for a black market.
“If it’s too prohibitive, you’re going to have … unintended consequences,” Gholson told the council.
In an interview after her presentation, Gholson added that she’s concerned the ordinance and its enforcement will amount to a ban akin to the prohibition of alcohol during the 1920s and early 1930s.
“My job is to remind people that prohibition doesn’t work,” she said.
In contrast to Gholson, longtime city resident and self-described “lifetime non-marijuana user” Thomas Partridge praised the ordinance, saying he’s in favor of harsher regulations to keep medical marijuana from people who will abuse it.
“Many marijuana users … ignore the very serious perils of lighting up,” Partridge said at the meeting. “It’s important that City Council keep this in mind.”