Pubdate: Fri, 26 Nov 2010
Source: Battle Creek Enquirer (MI)
Copyright: 2010 Battle Creek Enquirer
Author: Barrett Newkirk
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Medicinal - U.S.)


They're low-key places, but what goes on inside has city leaders worried.

They're called compassion clubs, dispensaries, smokehouses and other 
names, and they all cater to medical marijuana users. Proposed city 
regulations would severely limit where they can open and what 
services they can provide, and that has medical marijuana advocates worried.

"It'll shut us down," said Maggie Perrin, who runs the Cereal City 
Compassion Club on West Columbia Avenue. "I know there has to be 
regulations, but to prohibit us from dispensing meds, from helping 
patients, that's what we don't want."

The nonprofit Cereal City Compassion Club opened this spring in a 
rented space below an adult novelty store.

On the outside there are few hints to the spot's purpose. But the 
inside is decorated with banners with tie-dye colors and marijuana 
leaves, and a glass counter displays a selection of marijuana and 
marijuana-infused foods known as "medibles."

Perrin, 37, worked in the mortgage industry for nine years before 
losing her job in November 2008, the same month Michigan voters 
approved the state's medical marijuana law.

Perrin said she was already a medical marijuana advocate then, and in 
April 2009 she got her caregiver license, which allows her to legally 
grow marijuana for approved patients. In March, Perrin got her 
patient license as well to help deal people with migraines and nausea.

No pot is grown at the club. It makes most of its money by taking 
marijuana grown by a network of caregivers and distributing it to a 
network of patients. Perrin said the club has about 300 members, who 
all pay a $10 annual membership fee.

Battle Creek's proposed rules would require clubs like Perrin's to 
obtain a city license and not allow marijuana to be grown, 
distributed or used on site. The clubs could only offer support 
services and would be limited to certain commercially zoned areas.

The city's planning commission is set to consider the zoning 
recommendations at a special meeting Wednesday. It will then be up to 
the city commission to approve the final restrictions on zoning and licensing.

Susan Bedsole, Battle Creek's director of licensing and compliance, 
said the recommendation for now is to ban places for the distribution 
or use of medical marijuana because that law doesn't specify that 
such places are legal.

"What the state did was carve out an exception to that general rule 
that (marijuana) is illegal," Bedsole said. "So if it doesn't say 
that it's allowed then it's still unlawful, and that's our position."

Under the proposed rules, medical marijuana patients would only be 
allowed to use the drug in their homes, although some city officials 
have asked for some kind of exception.

Della Brown, a 41-year-old medical marijuana patient, said that if 
she couldn't come to the Cereal City Commission Club, she'd have to 
smoke at home near her 3-year-old grandson.

"It's nice having a place to go to be able to medicate before I go 
home," said Brown, who suffers from chronic pain. "And it's my choice 
not to smoke in my house."

The advocates also say that limiting patients to their designated 
caregivers gives patients no backup medicine when a caregiver's crop 
goes bad. That backup protection has been another advantage of the 
compassion clubs, they said.

There are also privacy concerns over the city keeping a list with 
names and addresses of licensed caregivers.

Matt Newburg, a Lansing attorney who has advised cities and 
organizations on Michigan's medical marijuana law, said the state law 
protects patient and caregiver information from public access, so 
Battle Creek's ordinance could be problematic.

"This one requires somebody who is a patient or caregiver, who knows 
that their information is protected from disclosure to walk into a 
city or township and say, 'I'm here to apply for my license.' That 
probably won't happen," Newburg said.

Cities can institute privacy protections, he said, but enforcing 
local zoning and licensing rules can also be difficult since the 
state law says patients and caregivers aren't subject to fines or penalties.

"They technically have a defense available to them that nullifies the 
penalty of that ordinance," Newburg said. 
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MAP posted-by: Richard Lake