Allowing medical marijuana sales from the homes of those who grow is preferable to allowing stand-alone marijuana dispensaries, City Planning Director Suzanne Schulz said Thursday.
"We are going to have people doing it anyway," Schultz told the city's Planning Commission.
The commission tabled the matter, vowing to discuss it next month despite several members who said they were aghast at the prospect of allowing marijuana distribution in neighborhoods.
"Obviously it's an emotional issue," Commission Vice Chairman Paul Potter said.
"We have to educate ourselves or we will make a decision that is not fact-based."
Schulz said her proposal to allow home distribution would allow the city to outlaw larger dispensaries that could cause problems.
State law approved last year allows distribution by state-licensed caregivers who are limited to five patients each. Caregivers are allowed to raise 12 marijuana plants for each one of their patients.
Not allowing home distribution would open the city to accusations it was illegally outlawing a legitimate business, Schulz said.
The state law allows licensed caregivers to supply marijuana to patients who get recommendations from medical doctors for a handful of diseases such as AIDs, chemotherapy reactions and seizures.
To date, the state has issued 6,125 medical marijuana patient registrations and has registered 2,572 caregivers, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
The ordinance proposed by Schulz also would allow distribution from pharmacies, medical clinics or doctors' offices.
Although pharmacists and doctors are barred from distributing marijuana by federal law, Schulz said the ordinance would allow caregivers to use their facilities for distribution.
The ordinance also could accommodate possible changes in federal law, she said.
The Grand Rapids Police Department is opposed to having marijuana dispensaries in residential neighborhoods, Sgt. Holly Botts said.
But complying with the law will be difficult for police because they won't be able to determine which marijuana distributors are legitimate, said Botts, who works in the vice unit.
"The law is very gray," she said. "Trust me, every agency in the state is encountering things they don't have answers for.
Botts said most police agencies are basing their concern on California's 12 years of experience with legalized medical marijuana.
"They have an ungodly number of dispensaries," she said.
"Our concern is getting a grip on it before it gets out of control."
Olon Tucker, owner of the Medical Marijuana Learning Center, told commissioners he wants to create a business educating caregivers and patients.
Limiting medical marijuana to pharmacies and clinical settings would deny business opportunities in what has become a billion-dollar industry in California, he said.
December 10, 2009
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Allowing medical marijuana sales from homes preferable to marijuana dispensaries