Pubdate: Sun, 18 Jan 2015
Source: Detroit News (MI)
Copyright: 2015 The Detroit News
Author: Derek Draplin


A Detroit city councilman, worried about an influx of medical 
marijuana dispensaries in the city, wants state lawmakers to help 
give local governments the tools to regulate them.

Since medical marijuana was legalized by voters in 2008, dispensaries 
have opened up in Detroit at an alarming rate, according to 
Councilman James Tate.

Tate estimates there are 180 dispensaries in 149 square miles of the 
city, describing it as an "oversaturation."

Detroit is "in limbo in terms of our ability to enforce the law" due 
to the "gray area that doesn't allow for dispensaries to really 
exist," Tate said.

Laws allow registered people to grow and sell medical marijuana but 
don't say if dispensaries or provisioning centers can do so.

Tate has been working closely with the Detroit Police Department, the 
City Planning Commission, the Law Department and the National Patient 
Rights Association to prepare the city to regulate dispensaries. But 
first, he said, the state Legislature needs to act.

In December, two lame duck bills died in a Senate committee after 
being passed in the state House. Tate, who represents Council 
District 1, hopes to see both bills reintroduced and made into law so 
medical marijuana dispensaries can be regulated.

"They would clarify the law enough for the city of Detroit," Tate said.

The City Council's Legislative Council Division issued a policy 
briefing outlining changes that would need to be made to Detroit's 
city code if the bills are signed into law.

A House bill sponsored by Republican Rep. Mike Callton of Barry 
County, would clarify legal protections for medical marijuana 
dispensaries, allowing for safer access by patients and regulation by cities.

An accompanying bill, introduced by Republican Rep. Eileen Kowall of 
White Lake, would allow patients to consume non-smoking forms of 
medical marijuana, which are not currently legal.

Callton said he plans to reintroduce his bill next week. He's still 
looking for someone in the Senate to take up the non-smoking medical 
marijuana bill. He said he intends to involve law enforcement groups 
that had some objections to the legislation.

"I'd like to hear their concerns and see how we can address them," 
Callton said.

Chris Lindsey, a legislative analyst with the Marijuana Policy 
Project in Washington, D.C., said the law needs to be clarified 
because medical marijuana patients are exposed to legal risk.

"There needs to be a system that provides safe access for patients. 
Until this is in place, individuals will be vulnerable," Lindsey said.

The National Patient Rights Association, a Grosse Pointe Farms-based 
nonprofit that advocates for the rights of medical marijuana patients 
and providers, has been working closely with Tate and state lawmakers 
to help draft bills.

"The legislation we've been working on gives them the local control 
they're looking for," Robin Schneider, a legislative liaison with the 
association, said of the Detroit City Council. "It gives control back 
to the municipalities.

"The goal here is to have better regulated dispensaries and less 
public nuisance."
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MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom