State Rep. Jeff Irwin (D-District 53) participated in a recent segment of the Fox 2 News talk show “Let It Rip,” focused on decriminalizing marijuana. Irwin, an Ann Arbor Democrat, has proposed legislation – House Bill 4623 – to significantly reduce the penalties for recreational use of the drug. [Source]
On Dec. 14, 2011, Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana licensing board met to continue deliberations on applications that the city has received for a limited number of medical marijuana dispensary licenses. At its Nov. 30 meeting, the board had taken an initial straw poll on one license application. Board members were favorably inclined to make a recommendation to the city council that a license be awarded to MedMarx at Arborside Compassion, located at 1818 Packard St.
At its Dec. 14 meeting, the board continued to review materials that had been submitted to determine completeness of other applications, and heard an argument from a business owner that his application should be considered as a pre-moratorium business.
The moratorium had been imposed by the Ann Arbor city council on Aug. 5, 2010 for 120 days – it prohibited the future use of property inside the city for cultivation facilities or dispensaries, and was extended several times in the course of the council’s consideration of the medical marijuana issue. That consideration culminated on June 20, 2011 in the enactment of zoning and licensing requirements for medical marijuana businesses.
Ann Arbor’s local laws require that businesses operate in conformance with the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, which was enacted by statewide voter referendum in 2008. The city has explicitly required of applicants for dispensary licenses that they explain how their business conforms with the law, including an Aug. 23, 2011 court of appeals ruling that has been interpreted by many authorities to mean that no medical marijuana dispensaries are legal. [.pdf of the McQueen case ruling]. Based on remarks made at the Dec. 14 meeting, it appears that Ann Arbor’s city attorney is open to the possibility that dispensary business models may exist that do conform to the McQueen case ruling.
Recommendations by the board on the award of licenses, along with recommendations for any revisions to the ordinance, are due to be submitted to the city council by the end of January 2012.
The licensing board’s work comes even as some marijuana advocates have begun to recruit volunteers for an eventual petition drive that would seek an amendment to Michigan’s constitution to repeal the state’s general marijuana prohibition. If successful, such a constitutional amendment would appear to remove state-level legal hurdles to obtaining medical marijuana or operating a medical marijuana dispensary. However, the legal ability of federal agents to enforce federal drug laws would be unaffected by a change to Michigan’s constitution.
A sign-up sheet for people to indicate willingness to help with the petition campaign was passed around by audience members at the Dec. 14 licensing board meeting. To place the constitutional amendment on the Nov. 6, 2012 ballot, the beginning and end dates for the signature collection period (based on typical strategies used by petition initiatives and Michigan’s election law) translate to Jan. 12 and July 9, respectively. To qualify, 322,609 valid signatures would need to be collected.
The Jan. 12 petition start date comes a day after Michigan’s Supreme Court is scheduled to begin hearing arguments in two medical marijuana cases. One involves the growing of medical marijuana in an “enclosed, locked facility” (People v. King) and the other involves the timing of a physician’s recommendation that is needed to support a defense against prosecution (People v. Kolanek).
Ann Arbor city council meeting (March 7, 2011) Part 2: At its first meeting in March, the city council undertook extensive amendments to a licensing proposal for medical marijuana businesses that it began considering for the first time at its Dec. 6, 2010 meeting. However, at the early March meeting, the council ultimately decided to postpone again its initial vote on the licensing proposal, which will eventually require two votes by the council, if it is to be enacted.
The city council will again take up the issue of licenses for medical marijuana businesses at its Monday, March 21 meeting.
The council had previously heavily amended the licensing proposal at its Jan. 3, 2011 meeting as well as at its Feb. 7 meeting. The amendments made on March 7 put the council possibly in a position to make any final amendments, and to take its initial vote on the licensing proposal at its March 21 meeting. [.pdf of medical marijuana licensing proposal after March 7 amendments – "clean" version] [.pdf showing amendments undertaken at the March 7 meeting – "marked up" version]
Also at the March 21 meeting, the council is expected to extend the moratorium on use of property within the city for medical marijuana businesses – first enacted at the council’s Aug. 5, 2010 meeting. The initial moratorium was supposed to last only 120 days, but was subsequently extended at the council’s Nov. 15, 2010 meeting for another 60 days, and again at its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting an additional 60 days, until March 31, 2011. The council wants to coordinate the second and final vote on a medical marijuana zoning ordinance, which it passed initially on Oct. 18, 2010, with the vote on the licensing ordinance.
An additional medical-marijuana-related item, postponed from the March 7 meeting until March 21, is a proposal to enact a clear non-disclosure policy for information that the city might gather from people who have registered with the state of Michigan as medical marijuana patients and caregivers under Michigan’s voter-approved Michigan Medical Marijuana Act.
Part 1 of the March 7, 2011 city council meeting report – which deals with the non-medical marijuana issues on the agenda – was previously published as a separate article.
At its Feb. 7, 2011 meeting, the Ann Arbor city council considered for a third fourth time a proposal on a set of licensing requirements for medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities in the city. And again the council voted to postpone its initial vote on the licensing scheme, after undertaking several amendments during lengthy deliberations.
The vote that was postponed is the first of two votes the council must take on any new ordinance it enacts. At its meetings over the last few months, the council has heard extensive public commentary on medical marijuana, but that commentary does not constitute a formal public hearing, which will be held at the same meeting when the council votes on final approval of the licensing, provided it eventually gives initial approval to the licensing system.
At its Oct. 18, 2010 meeting, the council gave its initial approval to a set of zoning regulations for medical marijuana businesses, but it has not yet given its final approval to those regulations. The council’s strategy is to bring licensing and zoning forward at the same time for a final vote.
The context for development of zoning regulations was set at the council’s Aug. 5, 2010 meeting, when councilmembers voted to impose a moratorium on the use of property in the city for medical marijuana dispensaries or cultivation facilities. Subsequently, the city attorney’s office also began working on a licensing system, which the council first considered at its Jan. 3, 2010 meeting.
At its Jan. 3 meeting, the council heavily amended the licensing proposal. Among the key amendments made at that meeting was one that stripped “home occupation” businesses out of the proposal. At the Jan. 3 meeting, the council also increased the cap on the total number of licenses available to 20 for dispensaries and 10 for cultivation facilities. Another major amendment made on Jan. 3 was the creation of a board to govern the issuance of licenses. However, the council delayed voting on the first reading of the proposal. [.pdf of licensing ordinance language at the start of the Feb. 7, 2011 meeting]
At its Jan. 18 meeting, the council was poised to undertake further amendments to the licensing proposal, including many that concerned limiting the amount of information that is required to be divulged by those associated with license applications. However, the council did not amend the proposal further at that meeting.
The moratorium on additional facilities in the city to be used as medical marijuana dispensaries and cultivation facilities was extended by the council at its Jan. 18 meeting to go through March 31, 2011.
This brief was filed from the boardroom in the Washtenaw County administration building, where the council is meeting due to renovations in the city hall building. A more detailed report will follow: [link]