Tecumseh City Council and Planning Commission discuss state law for medical marijuana
By JIM LINCOLN
In 2008, Michigan voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act (MMMA), which allowed patients, certified and registered with the state, to use marijuana for pain management. The act also allowed cultivation of cannabis by registered caregivers.
Since the law took effect in 2009, cities across the state have wrestled with issues not addressed in the MMMA, particularly those concerning dispensaries and distribution. As a result, there has been “confusion over issues of how to enforce it and protect the rights of patients,” said City Manager Kevin Welch.
Welch kicked off a meeting on Monday of the Tecumseh City Council and Planning Commission as the two met to discuss the MMMA and to hear from City Attorney Scott Baker, Police Chief Troy Stern and Director of Development Services Brad Raymond, who addressed the legal challenges and options for a city ordinance.
“It’s on our shoulders how we regulate distribution without impinging on the law,” said Baker. The law protects the privacy and confidentiality of patients, and the relationship between patient and caregivers.
“It’s very difficult to enforce laws outside the area of legitimate use,” said Stern. Identification cards are the only way to verify legitimate users. The problem, Stern said, is that cards can only be verified during regular business hours, which are Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. The question arises as to what police can do when someone is found in possession of marijuana after business hours.
Stern said the MMMA is illegal under Federal law with no medical defense. Citing the negative health effects of marijuana and its relationship to crime, Stern said the location of dispensaries near neighborhoods, schools and churches could make marijuana look legitimate to children.
Livonia is among Michigan cities facing legal challenges after banning dispensaries. Tecumseh has extended its moratorium on dispensaries until February.
City Councilman Larry VanAlstine, former Tecumseh police chief and Lenawee County Undersheriff, said “It’s a shame the electorate fell for this sham,” stating that the referendum was cleverly worded to “tie the hands of law enforcement.”
Raymond said the city has the option of banning dispensaries, as Livonia has done; adopting a resolution to regulate the law; or to do nothing.
“Taking no action will create problems,” said Raymond. “We need something on the books, we need to get something in place,” he said.
Welch said, “Our goal was to show you how confusing this is and how little direction has been given. We need legislative relief. We cannot have moratoriums forever, that would be the same as a ban.”
Councilman Dave Malmquist said the city needs to “sculpt” an ordinance regulating the MMMA by summer. More meetings on the topic will be scheduled, Welch said.