Heights council OKs ban on marijuana dispensaries
DEARBORN HEIGHTS — Marijuana dispensaries and grow centers will not be allowed in the city according to a new ordinance, which will still allow registered patients and caregivers to use it for medicinal purposes under state law.
City Council unanimously approved the zoning ordinance amendment Tuesday following its second reading. The ordinance will go into effect upon publication.
It prohibits land use contrary to federal, state and local laws.
Corporation Counsel Gary Miotke said the ordinance as its written is not designed specifically for
However, he said the city has no interest in prosecuting anyone in concurrence with state law in regards to medical marijuana.
An alternate version of the ordinance approved by the Planning Commission would’ve allowed medical marijuana dispensaries and manufacturing facilities in commercial and industrial zoning respectively.
Rick Coogan, Planning Commission chairman, supported this version that he said would have been more on the side of patients by making help for them more accessible.
He understands why council approved the ordinance it did, he said.
While state law now allows marijuana possession and use by authorized patients and caregivers, federal law still classifies marijuana as a prohibited drug.
The ordinance will prohibit marijuana-related businesses since federal law doesn’t allow businesses to manufacture or distribute controlled substances.
Police raid medical marijuana dispensary, seize cash
OAK PARK - People at an Oak Park medical marijuana dispensary said officers entered their building Wednesday evening, searched people there and took money.
Rick Thompson, who writes for Michigan Medical Marijuana Magazine, a publication located in the same building as the dispensary and Big Daddy’s Hydro, said between eight and 10 officers came into the building at 5 p.m.
“They were very polite, there was no yelling or flash grenades,” he said, noting three officers were masked.
“They were courteous to the 10 patients and employees, and even let one pregnant woman go to the bathroom.”
Thompson said he believes the raid was a response to recent court matters involving the DEA’s request for patient information.
“This was just reactionary action directed by Lansing to intimidate us and the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs and our stand to protect patients’ rights,” he said.
A call has been placed to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office for a response.
Officers asked to see drivers licenses and medical marijuana cards.
“Since everybody had proper ID, there were no concerns,” said Thompson.
Officers seized $2,874 and some medical marijuana, said Thompson.
No one was arrested.
“They didn’t take patients’ money or medicine, but they have done that in the past,” he said.
“They took some medication, whatever we had on hand, and brownies and suckers.”
Thompson said the dispensary uses a locker system, similar to one used at a Mt. Pleasant compassion club.
“It was found to be in compliance and we have a similar system of distribution,” he said.
He explained caregivers bring medicine in for their patients and then dispensary workers distribute it to patients “in a way that means caregivers don’t have to stay all day long,” he said.
“It’s safe and secure and legally correct.”
Thompson said he found the raid’s timing odd.
“What is odd is if they wanted to arrest someone for doing illegal transfers, they could have done that or if they had wanted to hal business for not operating within the law they could have done that. They didn’t toss the place but only focused on one or two rooms.”
Grand Rapids medical marijuana hearing postponed
A judge in Grand Rapids postponed a hearing Wednesday to determine if the state of Michigan should cooperate with a federal subpoena seeking medical marijuana records.
The delay Wednesday was due to a last-minute request to intervene by a group called the Michigan Association of Compassion Clubs.
Federal drug investigators have served a subpoena on the state seeking information on certain people with medical marijuana or marijuana caregiver cards.
The Drug Enforcement Administration won't talk about the Lansing-area probe but says it's not cracking down on medical marijuana users. The agency says it pursues large-scale drug traffickers. The state says it will comply if there is a court order.
More than 45,000 people in Michigan are registered to use marijuana to ease the symptoms of cancer and other health problems.
Thompson said officers said, “‘Don’t blame us, it comes from above.’”
No undercover officers first attempted to buy medical marijuana, he said.
“Now they (officers) come in almost apologetic,” he said
“This tells me this wasn’t directed by the Oakland County Sheriff.”
Medical pot shops must post $350,000 to get injunction
A judge ruled in their favor last month, finding several parts of Los Angeles' ordinance unconstitutional. The injunction will take effect if they post the bond within 10 days.
The Los Angeles medical marijuana dispensaries that won an injunction blocking enforcement of key parts of the city's pot ordinance must post a nearly $350,000 bond within 10 days for the court order to take effect, a judge ruled Monday.
David Welch, an attorney who represents many dispensaries, said he was confident the bond would be posted. "It's a sizable bond, but it's not insurmountable," he said. "It's our intent to go forward."
Almost 50 dispensaries and operators asked for the injunction, which Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Anthony J. Mohr issued last month. Mohr ruled that several parts of the law are unconstitutional, including the complex process the city intended to use to decide which dispensaries would be allowed.
City lawyers are now working with the City Council to develop an alternative method for culling the number of dispensaries, but also plan to appeal Mohr's ruling.
Lawyers for the dispensaries had urged the judge at a hearing Friday to set no bond, saying the city would not suffer any harm from the injunction. But the city's attorneys pressed for a $1-million bond, saying that closed pot stores are now returning to business and new ones are popping up.
"Dispensaries are opening with abandon," said Jane Usher, a special assistant city attorney. "I can tell you from the volume and intensity of the phone calls that we're receiving and e-mails from the neighborhoods that the court has far underestimated the damage."
The judge set the bond at $348,102.30, based partly on the city's estimates of the cost of police investigations and attorneys' fees. He indicated that he would consider increasing the amount if the city can show that his injunction led to higher costs, or if more plaintiffs are added.
Attorneys for the dispensaries differed over how easy it would be to come up with the bond money. They had pressed the judge Friday and in letters sent Monday to set separate bonds for each plaintiff, but Mohr sided with city attorneys and ordered a single bond.
Stewart Richlin, who represents eight dispensaries, likened it to splitting up a bar tab. "It's going to be tricky, and it might be the death knell of the injunction as it is," he said. But he said that even without an injunction in place, the city would still be stuck with Mohr's conclusions. "They can enforce their unconstitutional ordinance, but what luck will they have in front of any judge doing so?" he asked.
Colorado Medical Marijuana Dispensary Owner Asks State Supreme Court To Overturn
Illegal marijuana businesses may abound in Boulder
Officials in Boulder believe there could be dozens of businesses that grow or sell medical marijuana illegally in the city, and they are now taking steps to locate and shutter them.
But the biggest stumbling block is that no one is sure just how widespread the problem is.
Tuesday night, the Boulder City Council will hear a progress report on efforts to enforce a set of new laws the leaders approved last May to regulate the blossoming medical marijuana industry.
According to a memo sent to the council in advance of the meeting, city staffers estimate there could be about 85 dispensaries and growing operations that are operating illegally. The number, which city spokeswoman Sarah Huntley said is a "rough estimate," is based on the number of marijuana-based businesses that pulled sales-tax licenses but never submitted paperwork for a medical marijuana business license.
The city required all dispensaries and growing operations to apply for a newly created business license by Nov. 1. The city received 117 applications by the deadline, leaving an estimated 85 businesses that had sales-tax licenses to sell the plant but never applied for a business license.
"We don't know whether all those locations opened up shop," she said. "The number may actually be less than that. There could also be other illegal businesses we might not be aware of at all."
Now, the city is trying to figure out how many of those companies never opened up, which ones have closed and whether any of them are still doing business.
Toward that end, the city's Environmental and Zoning Enforcement Office has mailed 62 "cease and desist" orders to the last known addresses of suspect shops, Huntley said.
The city also recently mailed notices to four businesses ordering them to immediately close because they are located in residential areas. Officials have since confirmed three of the locations are closed or never opened, and they haven't heard back from one.
Huntley said the city is still figuring out the best ways to enforce the new rules, an effort that began in early November.
"We are trying to assess at this point what kind of resources we need," she said. "This is still a very new area for us."
Sean Fey, one of the owners of The Green Room, a dispensary at 1738 Pearl St., said he and others in the industry suspect there are some companies operating illegally.
"We're assuming there are people that aren't following all the regulations," he said. "If they're operating outside of the rules, then they're taking away business from the people who are legitimately trying to comply with all of the regulations."
The best way for legitimate businesses to compete with the illegal ones, he said, is to do everything by the book.
"It's our hope that we're doing everything we can to do our part," he said, including obtaining a sales-tax license early on and applying for state and local business licenses. "We're here to try and help legitimize the business."
When the council takes up the issue Tuesday night, it will also consider making some changes to the city's medical marijuana ordinance. Most of the proposed tweaks are technical in nature or bring the city's rules in line with the more restrictive state laws that govern medical marijuana commerce.
But one of the most substantive changes would prohibit medical marijuana businesses from opening shop in a building if it contains a residential unit -- regardless of whether the building is zoned to allow for medical marijuana businesses.
That proposal would affect people like Brad Melshenker, who owns The Greenest Green dispensary at 2034 Pearl St. in Boulder.
Melshenker's company is in a building that also has two condos. He and others in that situation would likely be grandfathered in under the old rules if the council approves the change.
But Melshenker said he recognizes the conflict, and he has already agreed to leave the building if a potential buyer of one of the condos put it in writing that he or she wouldn't purchase it unless the dispensary moves. So far, Melshenker said, no potential buyers have complained.
The council also will be asked to decide whether to exempt two dispensaries from zoning rules that would otherwise force them to shut down.
New Options Wellness, 2885 East Aurora Ave., and the Flower of Life Healing Arts Center, 3970 Broadway, both sit in areas that are zoned for residential use. Residential zones are strictly off limits to dispensaries, but the council could make an exception because the two shops in question are in planned urban development zones and aren't near any residential units.
The council seemed warm to the idea a few weeks ago, when the owners of the dispensaries asked for reprieve from the zoning conflict.
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