Medicinal marijuana was legalized by voters in 2008, but an abundance of state and local laws have prohibited the drug from being accessible to patients. On Jan. 18, Ann Arbor City Council members will decide whether or not to pass a licensing ordinance that will clearly explain the legality of marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities. The ordinance is crafted in a way that ensures the safety of residents in the vicinity of these facilities. City Council members should pass this ordinance to make legal prescriptions for medical marijuana more available for patients and to strengthen an underdeveloped market.

In an attempt to better regulate medical marijuana in the city, the Ann Arbor City Council made several changes to the licensing ordinance for dispensaries, cultivation centers and home growers. The most recent draft makes three major changes to the ordinance. According to a Jan. 4 article in the Daily, home growers will no longer have to register with the city, individuals who have been charged with drug-related misdemeanors will be permitted to open dispensaries and there will be an increase in the maximum number of facilities allowed in the city. The ordinance also mandates security measures like alarm systems, cameras and ventilation systems in facilities where marijuana is distributed.

Medical marijuana laws have been the subject of controversy since the legalization of medical marijuana in 2008. The laws are poorly worded and explained in a way that penalizes otherwise law abiding citizens. Ann Arbor’s ordinance will help to advance the acceptance of marijuana as a legal prescription drug. If implemented, the ordinance will clearly lay out what is a legal way to grow and sell marijuana to patients with a prescription. This is important for giving many people the medicine they need.

At a time when Michigan’s economy is struggling, medical marijuana is a viable source of revenue for many people. Ann Arbor’s unemployment rate is hovering around 8 percent, and 30 new dispensaries and cultivation facilities will create new jobs. Not only will increased clarity help patients, it will also help new businesses operate efficiently and legally. City Council needs to approve this ordinance to facilitate a new industry in Ann Arbor and support economic development.

While marijuana is often regarded as inherently illegal, the reality is that it’s a legal prescription and an effective way to treat many ailments. Medicinal marijuana was legalized by Michigan voters, and it’s good that efforts are finally being made to make obtaining a legal prescription more efficient. City Council is also taking every possible precaution by requiring certain safety measures at facilities. The rest of the state needs to approve these rules and make the laws around medical marijuana clear and easy to abide.

With proper regulations in place, there will be increased comfort and clarity for those who wish to legally provide and receive medical marijuana. And this will not come at the expense of Ann Arbor residents’ safety. The regulations concerning medical marijuana have been unclear for too long, and City Council shouldn’t hesitate to spell out the distinct laws and regulations.

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