Decision On Medical Marijuana Growing Operation Postponed By Douglas Officials
Wanting to first talk to the city attorney and get more clarity about what they say is a legal “limbo,” Douglas city officials Monday night tabled a proposal related to medical marijuana that was on the agenda for action.
“I’ve been doing this long enough to know to be patient with them,” former registered nurse Tammy Jacobi told The Local Observer following Monday’s council meeting.
She wants to open a medical marijuana growing operation in Douglas at the former Saugatuck and Douglas Convention & Visitors Bureau building on 2902 Blue Star Highway; she said she is very close to closing on her purchase of that building.
The citizen-initiated law of 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA) allows patients—and registered caregivers to provide to those patients—to use marijuana for specified medical conditions.
However, the law caused much confusion among affected parties, including local governments which were left not knowing how to decipher certain designations (i.e., caregiver, dispensary, etc.), much less know how to enforce the law. It also caused legal and interpretation battles.
Jacobi went to the city to apply for a permit as a caregiver, but the city does not even have an application form.
Following planning commission and city council discussions and a couple of moratoriums, Douglas in May 2013 went about regulating medical marijuana via zoning.
The council passed a land-use ordinance providing for a medical marijuana overlay district within which registered primary caregivers will be able to operate (i.e., not close to schools; limited to commercial zones along Blue Star Highway, south of Center Street for the most part, and light industrial districts on the city’s south side).
“We don’t have an application because we don’t have an application fee,” said Douglas City Manager Bill LeFevere, adding that creating an application process would put the city in a “less favorable position” because it would send out the wrong message that Douglas “was open for business.”
Asked by Douglas City Council Member Lisa Greenwood what had happened between the time the issue was put on the agenda and Monday night when Douglas city staff wanted to hold off on the matter, Lisa Imus, Douglas’ Zoning Administrator and Community Development Director, said, “It’s (studying and researching what other municipalities have done) left a lot questions unanswered for me.”
Imus went on to note several cities in Michigan that have instituted a moratorium on medical marijuana-related facilities and regulation, including Portage, Sterling Heights, Ann Arbor, etc.
“All we are saying is, ‘Let’s pause this and let’s get some legal advice,” noted Imus.
It was an approach supported by council and echoed by Imus.
The issue comes to the fore against the backdrop of recent related developments, including authorities raiding three Kent County medical marijuana dispensaries because they said those type of operations were not legal under MMMA.
That action came despite the fact that on Sept. 21 Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder signed a package of bills (under the Medical Marijuana Facilities Act (MMFLA), PA 281) that is meant to complement MMMA and which, among other facilities permitted, allows for dispensaries.
In fact, that new law went into effect the very next day, on December 20th, following Monday’s Douglas Council meeting.
However despite going into effect December 20, the MMFLA includes an additional delay for a year (December 2017) to enable the state to establish the licensing system required by the Act.
Back in 2011, Jacobi operated the short-lived medical marijuana dispensary Good Intentions Paving Co., located on Blue Star Highway in Saugatuck Township.
She closed up shop following a visit by the West Michigan Enforcement Team, a regional drug team, which came armed with a State of Michigan Appeals Court ruling saying dispensaries were illegal.
Now she runs Good Intentions under a slightly different form, an advocacy and information organization in Chicago, IL that helps people become registered medical cannabis patients.