Planning commission recommends changes to allow use in private clubs
Medical marijuana patients would be able to use the drug in private clubs under the latest version of a proposed city ordinance.
The Battle Creek Planning Commission on Tuesday recommended changing the city's zoning rules to allow growing marijuana for medicinal use in certain commercial zones.
Compassion clubs, operations that provide support services for medical marijuana patients, would be allowed in some zones and would give patients a second place to use their medicine besides their homes.
The planning commission approved recommending the changes 5-2, with Jan Frantz and City Commissioner Bill Morris voting no.
Frantz requested the city add a limit on the number of caregivers who can operate in a single location, but her amendment failed.
The Battle Creek City Commission still must sign off on the zoning changes, as well as approve a separate ordinance requiring a city license for some residential or commercial properties where medical marijuana is grown. Those ordinances are set to be introduced at a meeting Tuesday.
An earlier recommendation from city staff would have banned the use of marijuana in compassion clubs. It was changed after medical marijuana advocates said it was important to give patients an alternative location to use the drug besides their homes.
At Tuesday's meeting, more than 30 people spoke out against the proposed regulations, saying they went against state law, would limit patients' access to medicine and would force patients to buy marijuana off the street.
Operations focused primarily on the dispensing or smoking of medical marijuana would still be banned under the city's proposed regulations.
But smoking in the clubs is not a settled issue. The city commission could change the recommendation, and at a workshop Tuesday morning, Vice Mayor Chris Simmons hinted that he was not in favor of allowing use at the clubs.
Medical marijuana proponents also were concerned that compassion clubs would not be allowed to distribute the drug. Patients said only getting the drug from their designated caregiver means they have no backup source.
But Battle Creek City Attorney Eileen Wicklund said she didn't feel the state's medical marijuana law allowed for entities like compassion clubs to distribute marijuana.
A temporary halt to new medical marijuana establishments in Battle Creek expires in January, meaning the city has one month to finalize its rules.
Other cities have instituted full bans on medical marijuana, which Michigan voters approved in 2008.
On Wednesday, the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan filed a lawsuit against the cities of Bloomfield Hills, Livonia and Birmingham, saying the cities' bans violate state law.
December 2, 2010
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