Medical-Pot Law Clouds Community
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Medical-Pot Law Clouds Community
Posted by CN Staff on November 14, 2010 at 17:54:46 PT
By Matthew Dolan
Source: Wall Street Journal
Ann Arbor, Mich. -- This college town, which has a long taken a permissive stance on marijuana, is struggling with a crop of new problems as a result of a recent state law that legalizes it for medical use.Dating back to the 1960s and 1970s, this city gained notoriety for its efforts to legalize pot, a reputation it reaffirmed in 2004 with a ballot initiative that allowed for the growing and use of marijuana for medical purposes. But following its passage, city officials were unsure about how the new local law could be enforced, citing conflicts with state and federal law.
Then in 2008, Michigan voters legalized medical marijuana across the state, but the new law lacked provisions for the regulation of retail dispensaries. Almost overnight, a dozen medical marijuana dispensaries cropped up in this city—45 miles west of Detroit and home to the University of Michigan—where a climate of leniency was already established.Newly set-up medical-marijuana dispensaries have attracted thousands of state-registered customers to Ann Arbor from across Michigan, seeking cannabis strains with names like Steven Tyler Kush and Purple Urkel.City officials said they have no official estimate on the number of dispensaries, but one owner, Daryl Mynes, the 31-year-old co-owner of People's Choice Alternative Medicine, which opened in July and has 1,300 club members, said Ann Arbor could already have as many as 30 since the state law took effect."I think it's great," he said. "I think there should be standards and we should be kept to them."Other Michigan municipalities took a less liberal approach. Several cities and towns have banned dispensaries and some local law-enforcement officials are cracking down on marijuana shops they claim are selling their products to people without state registration cards.Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard, whose deputies raided several medical-marijuana clinics over the summer outside Detroit, recently commented at a press conference: "In one of the places, there were loose alligators running around protecting the product. This is Michigan. This isn't a Cheech and Chong movie."In a televised debate last week, Mr. Bouchard argued that the Michigan law "was written by pro-marijuana advocates and didn't put any regulatory structures in place. So as a result, there are really huge gaping problems for people that truly need any kind of medical marijuana to get it in a process that's safe, legal, effective."Even for some Ann Arbor residents, the city's tacit acceptance started to give way to unease. As more and more dispensaries opened up, some residents started calling council members to complain about congested parking and busy traffic near pot shops.City Planner Jill Thacher said she was getting inquiries daily from entrepreneurs in Los Angeles, Denver and Boulder, Colo., asking about Ann Arbor's proposed rules for dispensaries in anticipation of expanding their operations. In August, the city declared a temporary moratorium on the opening of any new dispensaries until December."It wasn't a big outcry, not a giant revolution," Ms. Thacher said. "But here and there people were becoming more concerned about what was popping up."Michigan's medical marijuana law approved patients to grow and possess up to 2.5 ounces of marijuana. Since the law became effective in April 2009, the state has issued 37,730 patient registrations and still is processing a four-month backlog of thousands more requestsOn Monday, the Ann Arbor City Council is scheduled to hold a public hearing and may vote on permanent zoning rules on medical-marijuana shops that generally limit where the dispensaries can be located, ban drive-through operations, require those under age 18 to be accompanied by a parent and prohibit consumption of marijuana inside a dispensary."Some people think there should be no regulation while some people say they are genuinely concerned about safety in the community and the impact on kids," Eric Mahler, the chairman of the city's planning commission that recommended a new local zoning law, said in an interview. "The state statute does not offer a lot of guidance about where these medical marijuana dispensaries should go."On Sunday, Arizona announced passage of a ballot measure legalizing medical marijuana that would allow for the establishment of about 120 licensed dispensaries, which will be subject to local regulations.Like Michigan, California, Nevada and Montana don't have statewide dispensary regulations, but have varying types of functioning dispensaries, including those subject to local regulation.In California, which approved medical marijuana through a voter initiative in 1996, no state agency is charged with regulating medical-marijuana dispensaries, leaving it largely up to cities and counties to decide whether and how to impose regulations and collect licensing fees.In an interview, Ann Arbor Mayor John Hieftje said that in addition to the new zoning law, the city is also crafting licensing rules to cap the number of dispensaries, adding, "The state really dropped the ball of this."Source: Wall Street Journal (US)Author: Matthew Dolan Published: November 14, 2010Copyright: 2010 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.Contact: wsj.ltrs wsj.comWebsite:  Medical Marijuana Archives
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