Pubdate: Wed, 06 Jul 2011
Source: Ann Arbor News (MI)
Copyright: 2011 The Ann Arbor News
Author: Ryan J. Stanton


The Ann Arbor City Council took action Tuesday night to adopt a policy
aimed at making sure certain information about medical marijuana
patients and caregivers is exempt from public disclosure, including
protection against Freedom of Information Act requests.

The policy was brought forward by Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st
Ward. It passed by a 6-3 vote with Stephen Rapundalo, Marcia Higgins
and Tony Derezinski opposing it.

Council Members Sandi Smith and Margie Teall were absent.

"Members of the public remain concerned we will be compiling a list,
looking at information we shouldn't be looking at, and making that
information about who's applied for a zoning permit public," Briere
said, explaining the reason for the policy, which follows last month's
approval of new zoning and licensing ordinances regulating medical
marijuana in Ann Arbor.

Briere said she believes the city's FOIA procedures and the state's
language about privacy and medical marijuana information already are
enough to ensure city staff won't release information about medical
marijuana patients and caregivers publicly.

"But I also believe in belts and suspenders, and that's what this
resolution accomplishes," she said, noting it's the same resolution
she proposed back in March and later withdrew.

"It does not provide anything that we don't think the staff would
already do, but it reassures people that this is indeed the policy,"
she said.

The non-disclosure resolution notes that the Michigan Medical
Marihuana Act makes clear that the following information is protected
against disclosure, subject to exceptions for disclosure of certain
information to law enforcement personnel: Applications to the Michigan
Department of Community Health for medical marijuana registry
identification cards and supporting information submitted by patients,
including: the name, address and date of birth of the patient; the
name, address and date of birth of the patient's primary caregiver;
the name, address and phone number of the patient's physician; and any
designation as to whether the patient or caregiver will be allowed
under state law to possess marijuana plants for the patient's medical

Individual names and other identifying information on the state's list
of the persons to whom the department has issued registry
identification cards.

Briere's resolution makes clear that the city desires to protect the
same information from disclosure if it is received in any form by the
city as part of the zoning or licensing processes for medical
marijuana caregivers, dispensaries or other providers.

Multiple medical marijuana advocates spoke at Tuesday's meeting
encouraging adoption of the non-disclosure policy.

Matthew Abel, a Detroit-based attorney representing a prospective
medical marijuana dispensary owner in Ann Arbor, also called for
changes to the licensing ordinance.

The city has had a moratorium prohibiting new dispensaries from
opening in Ann Arbor since last August, but city officials estimate
there still are about 15 to 18 operating.

Under the licensing regulations, dispensaries that were open prior to
the moratorium have up to 60 days after the new ordinance takes effect
to submit an application for a license. No other applications are
going to be accepted until 75 days after the ordinance takes effect.

The ordinance caps the licenses to be issued at a number 10 percent
higher than the licenses applied for in the first 60 days, but not
more than 20. That essentially means no more than one or two
additional licenses would be available to new dispensaries.

Rhory Gould, who plans to open a dispensary called Arborside Health
and Wellness at 3150 Packard Road, has had his associates take turns
camping outside of city hall since June 20 in order to ensure he's
first in line to get one of those licenses.

"We have a lot of time and money invested in this, and I have to
advise my client to stay in line unless there's some change to this
ordinance," Abel told council members on Tuesday, speaking on behalf
of Gould and Arborside.

"It seems that the current ordinance rewards the cowboys who opened
prior to the moratorium and it penalizes those who waited for
approval," Abel added.

Abel said ideally he'd like the city to issue Arborside a number
acknowledging it was first in line, and also change the licensing
ordinance to stipulate that up to 20 licenses will be given out in the
first year - dropping the 10 percent calculation.

Abel didn't get a response from city officials Tuesday night.
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