Michigan voters passed the law allowing use of "medical marijuana" and now even rural communities are going to have to deal with proposed shops, "clubs," growing operations, even warehouses.
Alma City Manager Phil Moore said he's had a general inquiry about such places, including a "warehouse," and the city's commissioners have decided to ask the planning commission to look into it.
"We have different options here and we can work with Ithaca and St. Louis," he said.
St. Louis City Manager Bob McConkie said he spoke with Moore a few months ago and suggested that the cities share legal costs as they go through the process of determining locations, security and enforcement.
Cities cannot legally keep them out, although they can say where they are located.
"We are obviously concerned," McConkie said. "There are appropriate places and inappropriate places. We wouldn't want to see a marijuana grow operation next to the high school."
The trouble is, the law is anything but clear.
"The state hasn't adopted appropriate statutes to regulate this," McConkie said. "There is no direction. The local communities will have to figure it out. It's kind of an unfunded mandate."
The courts will ultimately decide the particulars and it will be the local police agencies and communities that will bring those cases to court, he said.
Currently, the law states that an individual who has a physician's certificate stating to his or her debilitating condition that marijuana may help, can smoke it legally.
A physician cannot prescribe marijuana as it is still against federal law. He or she can only "recommend" it, according to the Michigan Department of Community Health.
A patient or his or her "caregiver" can grow up to 12 marijuana plants and possess up to 2.5 ounces of prepared marijuana. The caregiver may "assist" up to five patients.
No marijuana can be smoked in public places.
But after that, the law becomes murky.
On the MDCH website for frequently asked questions, somebody asked if patients can form growing cooperatives and the answer is, "The law does not address this."
Not surprisingly therefore, where there's a will and a loophole, marijuana "clubs" have popped up, as have warehouses where patients can rent a space with a grow light to grow their own plants.
State Rep. Rick Jones, R-Grand Ledge, announced new legislation in May to ban public marijuana clubs.
"Michiganders voted for the medical marijuana law so that people in great pain could use the product in their own home or in a hospice-type setting," he said in a press announcement. "They did not envision the creation of clubs where users could get high and then drive away endangering people.
"I have no objection to pain relief in a true medical need situation and controlled by a real doctor," he continued. "However, we do not need "clubs" springing up in cities or next to schools."
It's in these muddy waters that the local communities have to navigate.
McConkie said there is a wide variance in the ordinances of the cities that have allowed marijuana growing operations or shops.
"We are approaching this very cautiously," he said.
Both managers said they would not want to see marijuana operations downtown and believe few in their cities would want that.
McConkie said he would ask his city council for their input and believes the St. Louis planning commission will also tackle the subject, as well.
Moore said police input will be solicited and public hearings are likely in store.
According to one published report, more than 21,000 permits for medical marijuana have been issued in the state. Another source said 17,000.
Applications for the permits cost $100 each and must be renewed each year.
By LINDA GITTLEMAN
Published: Thursday, June 10, 2010