Otsego city hears medical marijuana report

By: 
Daniel Pepper

Otsego city commissioners heard a presentation from their lawyer about some of the ins and outs of medical marijuana under the State of Michigan’s new regime.
Commissioners listened to presentation Monday, Dec. 4, but didn’t take any action or direct any future direction on how—of if—to deal with medical marijuana in the city.
“At this point, this is just information gathering for us,” Mayor Cyndi Trobeck said. “We’ll address it at a future meeting.”
After Michigan voters approved a ballot question in 2008 allowing marijuana for medical use in the state, several cities like Detroit and Lansing have allowed secondary businesses to operate.
Then, last year the state legislature passed the Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act.
That created a regime where five different classes of business could deal with medical marijuana.
All are to be state licensed and they will only be allowed, however, if a local community allows them, attorney Ken Lane told the commission.
“Otsego could decide to do this and they’d be able to chose where, how many and what as much as possible,” Lane said. “It’s a blank canvass as far as how it’s going to work in each community.”
The types of business are growers, processors, safety compliance (testing) facilities, provisioning centers and secure transportation facilities. Provisioning centers are more commonly called dispensaries and are where patients are meant to obtain medical marijuana.
The law also creates a fee structure where the state, counties and local units split the tax proceeds from such businesses and the local units can charge up to $5,000 for each license.
Communities have to pass a resolution opting in to allowing medical marijuana businesses. If they do nothing, all aren’t allowed and people can only obtain medical marijuana under the previous system put into place after the 2008 ballot issue.
“Some communities are going an extra step to pass a resolution that says they’re not opting in,” Lane said. “The rationale for that is it gets the word out and people who might be interested know not to come knocking at city hall.”
Otsego has an ordinance regulating medical marijuana as a home occupation.
Lane said, “That didn’t change the what the state law allowed, but it did allow you to put some criteria on it.”
The city required no medical marijuana within 1,000 feet of a school.
Lane referred to the possibility much of this could end up moot if voters pass a further relaxing of state marijuana laws. A group is gathering signatures to put the question on the 2018 general election ballot.
“Potentially, there may be a day in the future when marijuana is approved for recreational use,” Lane said. “This would have a framework in place to be ready for that.”
Responding to a question from Gilmer, Lane said the state was giving local municipalities a large amount of control over medical marijuana businesses.
“Some places have regulated hours,” Lane said. “Other places have said they can’t use neon. One city said they don’t like the little green crosses so those aren’t allowed there.”
He said the amount of control local municipalities had was akin to some of that granted over adult entertainment businesses.
“In some aspects, the state is treating them like that,” Lane said.
He reminded the commission that marijuana is still illegal under federal law and while the federal government has previously chosen to be hands off, to continue that or not was up to the current presidential administration.
“In Lansing, they seem to get burglarized because there’s a large amount of cash in the safe,” Lane said.
Trobeck said as a banker by profession she’d heard a lot about the problems of the marijuana industry which banks refuse to do business with because of the federal status. That means business people have to deal in cash.
Commissioners didn’t offer any conclusions about what they’d decide in the future.
Commissioner Stacey Withee said, “I think the state needs to come up with some much more definitive answers.”
Commissioner Nick Breedveld said it shouldn’t be a quick decision.
“I know it’s a tough decision and there are a lot of people out there who are totally against it and a lot of people who are totally for it,” he said.
Commissioner Tom Gilmer thanked Lane for his input.
“There’s definitely a lot of things we need to know and questions we need to get answered before we make any kind of decision on this,” Gilmer said.
He did offer the opinion that because of the extra administrative burden small cities might not be able to deal with the new regulations.
“It might be much easier for big cities to cope with this than for cities our size,” Gilmer said.
Contact Dan Pepper at dpepper@allegannews.com or at (269) 673-5534.

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