Pubdate: Mon, 04 Aug 2014
Source: Detroit Free Press (MI)
Copyright: 2014 Detroit Free Press
Author: Bill Laitner, Detroit Free Press Staff Writer
Bookmark: (Cannabis - Michigan)


The Ferndale City Council has given its unanimous approval to a 
medical marijuana center similar to one that county authorities 
raided with a SWAT team and padlocked in 2010.

But city officials said the Meridian Wellness Center, which is to 
occupy a former liquor store on East 9 Mile near I-75, will operate 
within state law as it provides medical marijuana to state-approved patients.

"I'd like there to be more state guidelines for us to follow," but 
the city found no reason to block the center from opening after those 
who proposed it met a list of conditions, Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said.

"Public sentiment has changed markedly in just the last five years, 
not only for medical marijuana but also for marijuana in general, so 
I think it's only appropriate that we allow this," Coulter said last 
week. Approval of the facility comes at a time when communities 
across Michigan vary widely in their attitudes toward medical 
marijuana shops, generally called dispensaries, because of continuing 
debate about their legality.

That debate will ebb if the state Senate enacts a law to let Michigan 
communities decide whether to allow dispensaries. The measure, 
sponsored by a western Michigan chiropractor -- state Rep. Mike 
Callton, R-Nashville -- passed the state House last year, was 
approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July and could be 
enacted this year.

The Ferndale facility was approved by the Ferndale Planning 
Commission first and the city attorney, and then the City Council on 
July 28 -- after the business partners said the center would operate 
as a nonprofit club and serve only its members, and after the 
partners had obtained 501 (c)3 tax status.

Adam Applebaum, 26, CEO of Meridian Wellness Center, will be one of 
three state-approved caregivers operating at the site, he told city 
officials. State-approved patients would visit by appointment only to 
obtain the drug and advice, and each caregiver would have a locked, 
enclosed container for storing the drug as required by state law, 
Applebaum said.

Under Michigan's medical marijuana act, a caregiver can dispense the 
drug to no more than five state-registered patients, each of whom 
must be linked to that caregiver on the State of Michigan's computer 
system. The facility would scrupulously abide by those rules, Applebaum said.

"A lot of people feel uncomfortable (about) having a caregiver come 
to their home, with their family right there, and then they have to 
talk about using a Schedule I narcotic," he said. The facility will 
be secured by surveillance cameras, bulletproof windows and 
buzzer-operated locked doors, city documents said.

Under the plan, Meridian Wellness Center would avoid risky 
transactions such as selling to strangers off the street.

In August 2010, Ferndale's Clinical Relief dispensary was raided. The 
case made headlines when investigators admitted they had used forged 
state medical marijuana registry cards to gain entry -- a tactic that 
medical pot advocates likened to entrapment.

At least seven cases of those arrested at Clinical Relief were 
dismissed by an Oakland County circuit judge. The prosecutor's office 
appealed and the cases are still working their way through the 
courts, said Rick Thompson of Flint, editor of the Compassion 
Chronicles website for medical marijuana users.

A year after the raid that closed Clinical Relief, Michigan Attorney 
General Bill Schuette declared that all dispensaries in Michigan were 
illegal. His opinion empowered county prosecutors to raid scores of 
dispensaries, although 100 to 150 of them are thought to still be 
operating quietly while Michigan courts and lawmakers work toward 
deciding how medical marijuana should be distributed, Thompson said.

After the council vote, medical marijuana user Debra Young, 56, of 
Ferndale said she was thrilled. Young said she had been driving to 
Macomb County to get cannabis but that now "there's a new meaning to 
keeping it local."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom