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Posted on Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 5:59 a.m.

Ann Arbor City Council places 4-month moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries

By Tom Perkins

The Ann Arbor City Council, like several other local municipalities, is wading into the murky language of the state medical marijuana law in an attempt to determine how to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

And the council decided Thursday to place a four-month moratorium on new dispensaries in the city as staff work on recommendations for zoning medical marijuana operations.

The moratorium won't affect existing dispensaries, caregivers or patients acting within the state law. But those dispensaries grandfathered in won't be exempt to any zoning and regulations approved by the City Council in 120 days.

City Attorney Stephen Postema said the legal questions Ann Arbor and other municipalities face stem from the fact that the state law isn't “contemplating the issue of dispensaries.”

A lack of language on dispensaries in the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act has forced municipalities to develop their own zoning ordinances and regulations. Some have prohibited it altogether, some have not imposed any regulations and others have sought a middle ground.


The Ann Arbor City Council has placed a 4-month moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Associated Press

Most recently, Ypsilanti placed a 90-day moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries.

“It’s a problem for municipalities, and that’s what they have to deal with,” Postema said.

He added marijuana is still illegal on a federal level, despite the Obama administration directing authorities not to arrest those operating legally under state medical marijuana laws. Several council members also said they heard concern from residents over the possibility of dispensaries in their neighborhoods.

City staff and the planning commission will now take up the task of determining which zoning districts are most appropriate for the dispensaries. They'll make recommendations to council.

Roughly 100 people showed up at Thursday's meeting to oppose the original resolution, which would have shut down dispensaries for six months. It was also unclear whether that moratorium would have allowed caregivers and patients to grow and distribute marijuana per state law.

Many were also upset over the short notice council provided the public that a moratorium would be discussed. Several council members said they were unaware the issue would be discussed and questioned why it was put on the agenda the day before the meeting instead of the previous week, as is customary.

Charles Ream, who is involved in a planned dispensary on Packard Road near Iroquois Place, contended hundreds of patients rely on the dispensaries for their needs and can't grow marijuana themselves.

He said voters passed the law by an overwhelming majority because “they wanted sick people, with their doctor’s recommendation, to actually be able to get safe access to their medicine.”

“Please do not pass this resolution,” he said. “If you do pass it, please exempt those dispensaries that have already started serving patients.”

Approval of the moratorium came after 90 minutes of discussion. That followed nearly 30 minutes of public comment in which several prominent local figures in the medical marijuana industry spoke against the original proposed moratorium.

Early in the council’s discussion, Council Member Christopher Taylor, D-3rd Ward, suggested several friendly amendments exempting caregivers and patients who grow, distribute and use medical marijuana as permitted under state law.

Licensed caregivers are allowed to grow up to 72 plants if they're also patients, and 60 if they aren't.

Taylor said the moratorium doesn’t need to keep patients or their caregivers from their plants, “which is their right per state law.” He sought to ensure the moratorium was focused on land use. 

“The purpose of that amendment is to make very clear that the moratorium does not prevent patients from cultivating for themselves, and does not prevent caregivers from cultivating the number of plants the are authorized to cultivate,” Taylor said.

Council Member Sandi Smith, D-1st Ward, called the six-month moratorium “punitive” to dispensaries already in business. She pointed to other municipalities like Traverse City, which “have gone further, faster” with the issue and requested the moratorium be reduced to 90 days.

City Administrator Roger Fraser recommended 120 days to allow staff time to prepare recommendations and receive public input. Council members agreed on the new time frame.

Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, questioned the impact closing down dispensaries could have on patients with no other options to obtain medical marijuana.

“This is not about druggies, it’s not about people who are stoners, it’s about medical care,” she said. “That’s what we all voted for. Unless we have an alternative for medical care, which we don’t at this time … then putting these entities in limbo for the next 120 days while we decide what to do is not acceptable to me."

Several council members expressed support for “maintaining the status quo,” and Taylor suggested language to prohibit the “initiation and expansion” of any city property for dispensing medical marijuana.

Council Member Margie Teall, D-4th Ward, who said she heard concerns from her constituents, supported that amendment.

“We’ll be examining everything from that point, it just makes sense that we would be able to keep those businesses open for another four months,” she said.

Council Member Stephen Rapundalo, D-2nd Ward, said the zoning issues need to be studied in their entirety, and grandfathering an existing dispensary was “predetermining an outcome.” He was the lone no vote against the amendment to grandfather in existing dispensaries.

Rapundalo also noted he heard concerns from residents over dispensaries and said the health, safety and welfare of residents was the first consideration.

Police Chief Barnett Jones told the council police haven't had any issues related to medical marijuana dispensaries in the city.

Mayor John Hieftje underscored that he didn’t want to make obtaining medical marijuana difficult for anyone, but found taking 120 days to discuss the issue with residents reasonable.

“It does seem to me given what we’ve heard from our neighborhoods, it would not be a bad idea to step back, take a little time,” he said. “Don’t change a thing from the way it is now, but take a little time to decide how we will go forward.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance writer for Reach the news desk at or 734-623-2530.



Thu, Aug 12, 2010 : 7:22 p.m.

I do not have a problem with medical marijuana. I have family member who suffers greatly from MS. They choose not to use this type of medication but if they wanted to I would not be opposed. HOWEVER, I do have a problem with a clinic moving right next door to my house! I have children and so far, as they have moved their stuff in I have watched many people come through that I don't want around my daughter. Groups of many people looking at her as she takes my dogs out. I am very protective of my daughter, and rightly so, but I didn't sign up for this type of thing next door. If they grow it, which is what I was told by one of the people there, what is going to stop someone from breaking into my house, right next door, thinking that I have the marijuana? What is going to protect my family? Why is it that people can open these dispensaries up right next door to a residence? I am also told that we are to keep quiet about it as they have very good lawyers...I don't care who their lawyers are. I want to know what I can do to make this stop?

Milton Shift

Tue, Aug 10, 2010 : 2:42 p.m.

Gotta watch out for those stoners. They might sit on your couch and eat your food.


Mon, Aug 9, 2010 : 1:45 p.m.

Hey Jam, so you can now identify addicts and recreational pot users based upon a "visual". Of course your credentials must be much better than the doctors who prescribe. I think you have visions of grandeur regarding your observation skills and expertise in the area of addiction and recreational drug use. I also think you may be leaning a little towards paranoia.


Sun, Aug 8, 2010 : 6:45 p.m.

JAMS the answers to your concerns are simple and easy to obtain. I am SO happy to help with this, just need to know who has been asking for information and who they have asked. "Many people have been asking for MONTHS (including the city), and have not gotten any straight answers about anything. That's the problem."

shadow wilson

Sat, Aug 7, 2010 : 8:44 a.m.

Snapshot, if these legitimate businesses did not look like the places I use to buy reefer back in the 70's and the actual use of marijuana was not so thinly disguised that it is obvious that recreational use is the goal then maybe you might have some credibility. As I said those infiltrating this new legitimate business are users/addicts and there behavior is typical. They will wreck it for those with real need for medical marijuana. I have been reading with some interest on this and from all over the country including here in A2 I have read little positive in these places.If you et,al want to chastise do it to those that are going to make it illegal again; the addicts.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:13 p.m.

Hey JAM so how do you feel about the laundry across the street? Marijuana is a plant. What about a nursery? Should we deem all gardens and lawns an environmental hazard. You probably use more dangerous chemicals to control your weeds and insects. I think an educational campaign is in order.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:10 p.m.

Jam: That's discouraging news. Who did you go to at the city level? What kinds of questions did you ask? Has anyone walked over and spoken to the folks working at this establishment?


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:06 p.m.

A city moratorium on a legal business is a blatant interference in a legitimate business to serve its clientele in a location that best serves both client and supplier. The city would not do this for a Rite-Aid, CVC, or UofM dispensery of any sort. It stigmatizes a legitimate business. As long as zoning is commercial the city has no business impeding the establishment of a legitimate business enterprise. It seems this type of interference would violate a business owners civil rights if the city does not use the same process for a Rite Aid, CVC, or hospital pharmacy or clinic.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:19 p.m.

"Medical???Gimme a break. I live and work downtown...and have yet to see people other than stoners putting out the $400/oz and membership fee. " Rich stoners apparently. BWahhahaha and criminals buy their guns at guns shows too! NOT

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 4:51 p.m.

I am not worried about stoners going to the dispensaries for a fix. Not a single one of the stoners I know have any plans to do so because they already are hooked up to the well established marijuana black market. They can get all the weed they want for less money and they don't have come up with some bogus medical reason to get a doctor to write a prescription. And they don't have to pay taxes. The people who will find such places the most useful are people with legitimate medical needs who, because they aren't pot smokers, don't have the connections they would need to safely buy this substance.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:51 p.m.

Medical???Gimme a break. I live and work downtown...and have yet to see people other than stoners putting out the $400/oz and membership fee. What I find somewhat puzzling is the majority of the "patients" that stand out on Main St. smoking cigarettes, waiting for their appts...two weeks ago a young man walked out of the door and when he walked up to his two waiting companions...his exact words..."score"...


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 3:17 p.m.

Charmie: Many people have been asking for MONTHS (including the city), and have not gotten any straight answers about anything. That's the problem.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

If you want to know what the dispensary on Packard does, walk over and ask them. Until you get your facts straight, do yourself and neighbors a favor and stop fear-mongering.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 1:50 p.m.

I don't see any one complaining about stores that sell alcohol that can be abused and cause pain and suffering. I'm not against either one when used in a sensible way. We're quite a bit behind the rest of the world when it comes to marihuana, as we are with stem cell research. I'm sure if people who are against stem cell research would welcome its potential if it can save the life of their son, brother, wife, etc. So much hyprocrisy insisting other people are always wrong if they disagree with them.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 11:15 a.m.

Ricebrnr, one big difference between medical marijuana dispensaries and Walgreens is that Walgreens sells drugs that are regulated but legal. The dispensaries will sell a drug that is still illegal on a federal level, and only available for open sale because of the adminstration's stated position that it won't interfere for now. Let's end the hypocracy and either legalize pot or stop undermining the credibility of federal drug laws by enforcing the illegality.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:37 a.m.

Atticus F: Yes, I know how they vent the odors through carbon filters. I also know that most of the time it doesn't work very well, and that's how the police figure out where the grow houses are... it's from the smell! The combination of that and what comes out of BTB some days will be a little too much!

Elizabeth Nelson

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:28 a.m.

I'm surprised by the knee-jerk reactions and paranoia among some posters. Short term monopolies? WALMART? Good grief... it's only four months! It makes sense to me that neighbors might be concerned about this kind of business and if it's truly NOT going to be any kind of nuisance, four months is a reasonable amount of time for the business or whatever advocacy groups to educate and promote awareness about it. I haven't read or heard anything about how harmless such businesses are but I also haven't read anything awful about them. Does anyone even know what the impact would be on a neighborhood? If one was opening up next door to me, I'm not sure I'd panic but I'd also be curious and cautious about it: is it comparable to a medical office, a liquor store, English Gardens, what? This decision is about increasing awareness and getting the public on board as much as it is about giving the council time to draft rules about zoning. I don't see the controversy.

shadow wilson

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 10:11 a.m.

For those honest and familiar this is typical drug addict behavior.I predict very soon medical marijuana and dispensaries and the whole lot will be done away with because it is all a scam to get high....too bad because there is legitimate use but not when vague and flimsy ailments are reason for "recommending" use of Marijuana...the pot heads will jump on that as they already have.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:44 a.m.

Legalize, regulate, and tax marijuana. Simple solution to a lot of social problems. This moratorium is emblematic of governments fearing political backlash for appearing "weak on drugs" when study after study has shown how Marijuana is nothing like the drugs it is scheduled the same as (heroine, cocaine, etc...). Once again politics trumps policy.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:27 a.m.

What is more scary than marijuana.

Atticus F.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 9:08 a.m.

JAM, Dispenseries often vent there facilities through a carbon filter due to the strong smell of medical marijuana. This is done to keep from offending neighbors. This could explain the vent pipe coming out of the roof.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:27 a.m.

The "dispensary" on Packard is going to be a full-scale grow house. Look at the permits the city granted for construction. Look at the big vent pipe on the roof. There are environmental and safety hazards associated with grow houses. This is immediately adjacent to peoples' homes. Let them put their large-scale grow operation out in the country somewhere, not next to childrens' bedroom windows!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

Just wait until Walmart Weeds n Seeds applies for a business permit. WALMART plans on getting in the weed game and also marketing organic seeds for fruit and veggies within the same brick and mortar to capitalize on this new market.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 8:24 a.m.

"... Roughly 100 people showed up at Thursday's meeting to oppose the original resolution, which would have shut down dispensaries for six months." The tin foil conspiracy-monger in me wants to think that city council included the shutdown language in the original resolution for the explicit purpose of removing it in public at the council meeting, in order to make the final version appear more palatable to the public by comparison. The final result seems fine, although I have to wonder why the city councils in both Ypsilanti and Ann Arbor did not put this issue on their respective plates at least a few months earlier. It shouldn't have taken this long to see that the state legislature would take a pass on rules for dispensaries.

Atticus F.

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:55 a.m.

I attended the meeting last night fully prepared to be hauled off to jail...God Bless Council Member Sabra Briere, for giving a voice to people who are in suffering.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:37 a.m.

This new industry has so much potential to provide more jobs and stability in a state where it's really getting hard to see that now, or in the future with any other industry. Medical marijuana is one of the only options left for Michigan to embrace and rebuild the employment rates across the state. THIS IS A NO BRAINER.....Let them be and watch Michigans' economy boom. California profited over 100 million dollars in just one year from medical marijuana dispensaries. Why put a stop to a prospect like that? I think the City Council would not have voted that way if they were patient for results and not rushed to "step back, and slow down" for zoning purposes. Honestly, I don't think Michigan can afford to do that right now.

Craig Lounsbury

Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:25 a.m.

It occurs to me we have a "dispensary system" now. The question is whether a dispensary with an address and business hours that pays taxes is an improvement over "my buddies connection"


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:23 a.m.

Good idea, let's get the rules and regulations right before every1 tries to open up shop.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 7:09 a.m.

Federal laws aside, I don't understand why people have a problem with medical marijuana and dispensaries. It's not going to be just a bunch of "potheads" trying to get their fix. Marijuana may not be effective for everyone but does have a place in medicine. People are prescribed highly addictive narcotics everyday for medical reasons and that's considered acceptable; but medical marijuana is just awful. Why? Marijuana is "natural" while other narcotics are chemically engineered in a lab. No, I'm not a "stoner". I've just talked with people who've had to illegally access marijuana for a loved one going through cancer. Marijuana helps control the nausea caused by chemo, which in turn improves appetite and being able to hold things down. Whether you agree with its use or not, it is an effective way to treat certain symptoms associated not only with cancer, but other illnesses, as well.


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:46 a.m.

SO we're all for short term "state" induced and approved monopolies? Also this is akin to a legal and regulated pharmacy. Would you make the same caparison to druggies and crack houses for a CVS or Rite Aid? HEY you can get codeine, ocycontin and any number of other class 3 substances from Walgreens too, better stake them out for the druggies!


Fri, Aug 6, 2010 : 6:39 a.m.

Robert M. has a good point. Here's another: it's a good idea to take some time to see how the Packard Road dispensary works out before granting new permits. Still, the real question is not whether there will be ANY trouble with medical marijuana dispensaries, but whether there will less trouble overall compared to that which takes place at the unauthorized drug houses.