Pubdate: Wed, 8 Dec 2010
Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2010 Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Barrett Newkirk, The Enquirer
Cited: Battle Creek Planning Commission
Cited: Commissioners


Commissioners Consider Banning Compassion Clubs

Elected officials in Battle Creek moved Tuesday to stop medical 
marijuana patients from using the drug in so-called compassion clubs 
and limit the use to patients' homes.

At a meeting that brought more than 100 people to City Hall, city 
commissioners began the formal discussion on how to regulate medical 
marijuana within the city.

No vote was taken on the two ordinances before the Enquirer's deadline.

Vice Mayor Chris Simmons said he felt that Michigan's medical 
marijuana law doesn't allow for compassion clubs to distribute the 
drug, something the city initially proposed banning but then moved to allow.

Commissioner David Walters, a former police officer, said he was 
uncomfortable with the idea of patients driving away from compassion 
clubs while under the influence of marijuana.

Dozens of people spoke out against the proposed rules, saying they 
will limit patients' access to legal medication, will make patients 
turn to the streets to obtain the drug and will open up the city to lawsuits.

"The patients don't have the luxury of getting the medication at a 
pharmacy; they must find their own way to obtain it," said Pam 
Sparks, whose brother uses medical marijuana.

The city is proposing zoning and licensing requirements that limit 
where medical marijuana is grown, distributed and used.

It would require caregivers, unless growing the marijuana for their 
own medical use, to obtain a city license and keep their growing 
operations within certain commercial zones. Those growing operations 
could not be located within 1,000 feet of a school or licensed day care.

The state law says patients cannot use the drug in public. The city 
has grappled with the idea of whether to give patients an alternative 
place to use the drug besides their own homes.

An initial draft ordinance limited use to in-home only, but it was 
later changed to allow use in so-called compassion clubs after many 
people said they needed an alternative location.

But the city commission could reinstate the ban on usage at the club. 
Many people at Tuesday's meeting said that would hurt patients.

"If you shut (the compassion clubs) down, I can only see you helping 
drug dealers and putting patients at risk," said Mike Rothwell, a 
Battle Creek medical marijuana patient. "I'd also be hoping that you 
wouldn't spend my tax money on litigation and going to court."

A requirement that renters obtain written permission for their 
landlords before growing or using medical marijuana in their homes 
was stricken from the draft ordinance before Tuesday's meeting 
because city staff members worried the rule would be in opposition to 
federal fair housing laws.  
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake