Ensuring pot sold in Ann Arbor is Michigan-made shouldn't sell out suppliers, dispensary owner says
Ryan J. Stanton | AnnArbor.com
Buried six pages deep in the city of Ann Arbor's proposed medical marijuana licensing ordinance is a requirement that all weed dispensed in the city be Michigan-made.
It reads: "All marijuana in any form provided to patients at or by a dispensary or cultivation facility shall have been cultivated, manufactured, and packaged in the state of Michigan."
While the city may have legitimate reasons for wanting to prohibit interstate drug trafficking, or wanting to be able to trace all marijuana to its source point in Michigan, the issue has local medical marijuana advocate Chuck Ream concerned.
Ream addressed the City Council Tuesday night to say he still doesn't agree with a requirement that would force dispensaries and cultivation facilities to not only keep records of all suppliers they receive marijuana from, but also make those lists available to the city upon request.
"There's no good purpose to be served by keeping a permanent list of suppliers," said Ream, a partner in MedMAR Pharmaceuticals Inc., a dispensary at 1818 Packard St.
Ream said he understands the city's interest in making sure all medical marijuana is coming from within Michigan, and that there's an ability to quickly trace the source of any product in case it turns out to be tainted or caused harm to a patient.
Lon Horwedel | AnnArbor.com
But there's a fear that supplier lists could end up in the hands of the federal government and implicate patients and caregivers in criminal activity since medical marijuana is still illegal under federal law.
"Dispensaries want to cooperate with these legitimate needs of the city, but also want very much to preserve the confidentiality of our patient and caregiver members as much as possible," Ream told council members. "We want to minimize the chance of our members' names being kept on a permanent or lasting list of suppliers."
Ream proposed an alternative solution Tuesday night.
"The city of Ann Arbor could require that all cannabis products in a dispensary must come from members of that dispensary, thus assuring that the products come from Michigan," he said, adding the city also could require every licensed dispensary to keep records to prove the source of any cannabis product — but use ID numbers rather than names.
Ream said it could be made part of an annual inspection process that dispensaries are required to prove the source of each cannabis product they carry.
"And a dispensary should be required to cooperate with any city investigation into tainted or dangerous products," he said. "And if necessary and required by the city, they should reveal the identity of any member who may be the source of these products."
Ream's comments came during the public input period at the start of Tuesday's meeting. City officials did not respond to his suggestions at the meeting.
Consideration of the proposed licensing ordinance was on the agenda Tuesday night, but council members decided to postpone voting on it for the fifth time in recent months. The reason cited was that four council members were absent.
Dennis Hayes, an Ann Arbor attorney who specializes in drug law, addressed the council to say he's encouraged by talks he's had with some council members.
"Every time I come back and talk with some of the council people, I find out that there's more and more that we have in common," Hayes said. "Particularly, I would like to commend all of you for your concern for the patients, which is in fact the purpose of the legislation."
Hayes said he's been in discussions with some council members about what information is required to be printed on medical marijuana package labels.
The way the ordinance is currently worded, all marijuana delivered to patients in Ann Arbor would be required to be packaged with a label stating:
- The name of the person receiving the marijuana
- The name of the business delivering the marijuana
- That the package contains marijuana
- The date of delivery, weight, type of marijuana and value
- A health and safety warning
"We believe that we have a confidentiality solution, which will protect the names of the people, and we're working on that," Hayes said without revealing details.
Hayes raised concerns that the proposed ordinance would require the owner of a property to sign off on letting a tenant use the premises as a medical marijuana business.
"You have to do something to make sure that the property owners have the maximum available protection to them when they lease to these people," he said.
Ream said the city also should reconsider issuing licenses to cultivation facilities, which are generally assumed to be warehouse-style commercial grow operations.
"I don't see the benefit to patients of these cultivation facilities," he said. "They could get the whole program busted and dispensaries knocked out, and I don't know if we really need them."
That's the opposite of what Tony Keene, who runs a medical marijuana co-op on South Industrial Highway, said in an interview with AnnArbor.com last week. Keene, whose business could be considered a cultivation facility, said he thinks the city should disallow dispensaries because they're giving the medical marijuana industry a bad name.
Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for AnnArbor.com. Reach him at email@example.com or 734-623-2529.