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Posted on Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 6:05 a.m.

Medical marijuana ordinance passes through Ann Arbor Planning Commission with some revisions

By Ryan J. Stanton

A new city ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries is on its way to the Ann Arbor City Council for approval following the Planning Commission's blessing Tuesday night.

In an 8-0 vote, the Planning Commission agreed to a four-page set of zoning rules that city officials have spent the last two months meticulously crafting in response to a rise in medical marijuana dispensaries in Ann Arbor.

City Planner Jill Thacher took time at the start of Tuesday's meeting to give an overview of changes made to the ordinance since it was presented in draft form last month.

Thacher said city officials decided to eliminate the requirement that dispensaries and so-called "cultivation facilities" must be 500 feet apart and 200 feet from residential areas.


Medical marijuana advocate Chuck Ream addresses the Ann Arbor Planning Commission Tuesday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

She said planning staff and some members of the Planning Commission and City Council visited four dispensaries in Ann Arbor and determined — after witnessing the simple, over-the-counter, retail nature of the operations — there is no rationale for those distance requirements.

Planning Commissioner Jean Carlberg echoed Thacher in that regard.

"I was impressed with how little impact it seems to have on the areas around it," she said of one of the dispensaries she visited. "As far as I could tell, there's no odor impact, there's no noise impact, the traffic seemed to be quite moderate in the area ... so I couldn't see, in any of the sites that we visited, any real impact on the neighborhood."

A requirement that dispensaries can't be located within 1,000 feet of schools stayed in the ordinance after some debate.

Thacher noted during her report that all uses of the phrase "drug paraphernalia," which was seen by some as pejorative, were removed from the ordinance.

Chuck Ream, a longtime medical marijuana advocate who recently opened a dispensary on Packard Road near Iroquois Place, thanked city officials Tuesday night for their work.

"I especially want to thank the Ann Arbor City Council and the Ann Arbor Planning Commission," he said. "They have shown extraordinary intelligence, common sense, hard work and willingness to listen to Ann Arbor citizens, patients and caregivers."

The definition of a "dispensary" in the proposed ordinance includes any facility where one or more caregivers are operating with the intent to transfer medicinal marijuana to a patient.

The definition of a "cultivation facility" has been reworked to mean a single facility where more than 72 marijuana plants are being grown.

The ordinance limits the location of dispensaries to downtown, commercial and manufacturing/industrial zoning districts, as well as Planned Unit Development districts where retail is permitted through supplemental regulations. Cultivation facilities would be allowed in commercial, manufacturing/industrial, research and light industrial zoning districts.

Other highlights of the ordinance:

  • Drive-in medical marijuana dispensaries shall be prohibited.
  • No one under the age of 18 shall be allowed to enter a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility unless accompanied by a parent or guardian.
  • No smoking, inhalation, or consumption of medical marijuana shall take place on the premises.
  • All activities of a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility shall be conducted indoors.
  • No equipment or process shall be used in any medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility which creates noise, dust, vibration, glare, fumes, odors or electrical interference detectable to the normal senses beyond the property boundary.
  • An annual zoning compliance permit signed by the owner shall be required, and must be renewed prior to the anniversary date of the issuance of the original permit.

City officials estimate about eight or nine medical marijuana dispensaries have sprouted up in Ann Arbor, some drawing complaints from neighbors. The Liberty Clinic in the 200 block of South Main Street was robbed at gunpoint last week.

Admittedly entering uncharted territory, the City Council approved a four-month moratorium on new dispensaries in August to give city staff time to come up with zoning regulations. The moratorium expires Dec. 3, and city officials are moving quickly to get an ordinance in place.

The City Council meets next on Oct. 18.

The proposed ordinance includes regulations for home-based operations known as "home occupations," where caregivers residing in a single-family dwelling unit can grow up to 72 plants at a time. The ordinance also allows patients living anywhere other than in a single-family dwelling unit to grow up to 12 plants at any time.

The ordinance had stated home occupations couldn't generate more than five business-related vehicle trips per day. That has been increased to 10, which means five roundtrips.

Commissioners amended the home occupation regulations Tuesday to state: "No transfer of medical marijuana to patients other than those residing on the parcel shall occur on the parcel."

About two dozen people attended Tuesday's meeting, and a handful voiced opinions on the proposed ordinance.

Ream said he still has concerns with parking requirements that are spelled out in the ordinance. He also said he doesn't think the city should have its own regulations for home occupations since that issue already is addressed under state law.

The fact that the city's ordinance requires home occupations to obtain an annual zoning compliance permit, Ream said, is "completely unacceptable and a violation of state law."

"This will be immediately litigated," he warned city officials.

In a separate 8-0 vote Tuesday night, the Planning Commission approved a resolution recommending the City Council develop a medical marijuana license to address issues that fall outside the scope of the zoning ordinance, such as building security and code compliance for electrical use, fire suppression, and ingress and egress issues.

Planning Commissioner Tony Derezinski, who also serves on the City Council, said the process of coming up with regulations for medical marijuana reminded him of his time in the state Legislature, back in the 1970s, when state lawmakers took steps to legalize bingo.

"It's a rough metaphor, I think, to what we're doing here," he said. "We sort of had to rely on the people who had been playing bingo for a long time ... in terms of how the dynamic of it worked. And that's kind of what we're doing here, I think, is we're trying to figure out the dynamic of this."

Derezinski said he thinks the city's ordinance reflects, for the most part, what the state law intended: that local communities would further define the ability to use medical marijuana.

"What sold it for me, too, is the idea that the second resolution we passed would provide for additional regulation with a licensing mechanism to further define how these places will be operated," he said. "Together, I think they form a good piece of ordinance work. We have more work to do on it obviously at City Council, but I think this is a good step and a thoughtful step."

Planning Commissioner Kirk Westphal fought unsuccessfully Tuesday night to require dispensaries to be at least 500 feet apart. He said he believes cities like Ann Arbor would be better off having a few larger dispensaries, rather than a multitude of smaller ones.

"I thought the spacing requirement would help accomplish that," he said.

After a majority of planning commissioners rejected his amendment, Westphal suggested perhaps the City Council could cap the number of dispensaries through licensing.

Planning Commissioner Erica Briggs convinced her peers on the commission to strike the requirement that property owners must provide express written permission before tenants could use a leased property as a dispensary or cultivation facility.

Commissioner Wendy Woods was absent from the meeting.

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529.



Fri, Oct 8, 2010 : 8:52 p.m.

Crowd-sourced pricing website:


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:20 p.m.

I might add that word on the street is legal pot has influenced the black market. They are robbing people blind at the dispensaries and you can now get quality chronic on the streets for some of the most historically cheapest prices, taking into account the value of the yen, euro and the dolar, along with inflation. Alcohol is legal yet you can still get moonshine, go figure.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:11 p.m.

No drive thrus? Wait until Starbucks and McDonalds get on board, this will change.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:07 p.m.

Nobody wants a society where a bunch of people are stoned half the time. We don't have that now with alcohol, tobacco or prescription drugs and it won't be any worse with marijuana. It's here already anyway and legalization might well lower alcohol and other drug use in general. Nobody wants drugs any more available to kids than they are now, which are quite readily available anyway if you ask them. Telling kids the truth about marijuana and other drugs would go far towards preventing them from trying them at an early age. Parents, schools and peer pressure have done a good job raising awareness about tobacco and alcohol use, they can do the same by telling the truth about pot. Drug use by adults and especially young children will go down as soon as recreational drugs lose their forbidden cachet and become boring and socially frowned upon like tobacco and alcohol through TRUTHFUL drug education. One of the reasons people continue to smoke pot is because the government lied about it being so dangerous. Don't lie to teenagers about how bad pot is when they know better because after that everything they're told about drugs or anything else becomes a lie. Anyone who's smoked pot know this.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 7:34 p.m.

Isn't it funny. The only thing coming out of our local and state governments, is a way to get high, or drunk? Maybe they want us to go smoke a bowl, or slam a case of beer on Sunday morning. That way, we can forget their inadequate ability to adress the more pressing problems facing our city, county, and state. CHEERS!, AND DON'T BOGART THAT PLEASE. PARTY ON GARTH.

Bobby Zumbi

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 4:26 p.m.

Yes we should legalize EVERYTHING, then see what the FARC, the AUC, the Cali and Medellin Cartels, the Salvadorian street gangs, the Jamaican and Mexican Mafias, la Cosa Nostra, the Pashtun Warlords, et al do. But that is too ambitious. Incremental change is the name of the game in this country, and I'm proud to get my legal high or medicine or whatever in this town. If you don't want to smoke it, then don't. But like Willie Nelson, Peter Tosh, Bob Marley, Queen Victoria and George Washington all knew, cannabis is a resource, a fuel and a medicine. And as the Rastafarians and whole bunch of other 'groovy' people have iterated, 'legalize it, don't criticize it.' Cannabis does not make you pass out in your own vomit, get in bar fights, beat your wife, etc like liquor does for some. It makes you giggle and eat cookies. It is not dangerous and it does not lead to criminal behavior. oh, and ps, I'm high right now. Just kidding. I'm not. :)


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 4:20 p.m.

Subtract the social and economic costs of prohibition (courts, law enforcement, prisons and ruined lives) and add the economic benefit of hemp as a cash crop (paper, oil and biomass for energy) then add in governmental regulation (to keep it out of the hands of children) and taxation (to cover costs of treatment of serious addicts. By any measure it's a huge social and economic plus for government and taxpayers. Legalizing marijuana is a win for everyone except those who have a stake in continuing its prohibition like drug cartels, thug criminals, privately owned prisons, the chemical, drug and paper industries... The evidence favoring legalization is plain to see. Everyone knows it. The arguments counter to legalization are based on prejudice, fear and support of profit driven big businesses and law enforcement for political purposes. For once, why can't the little guy, the individual, have the same rights and privileges under the law to grow and use (like beer and wine) for their own benefit and pleasure instead of legislating the control and regulation of growing a common plant just to increase the profit of corporate shareholders? Why over-legislate, over-regulate and complicate the simple process of growing a common plant for use by an individual? When the time comes that someone can grow a bumper crop of marijuana in their garden and has some to give away with their abundant zucchini, then we'll realize that prohibition was a costly mistake and the benign weed is as harmless as it is beneficial. We'll look back and wonder why we spent all that money and ruined all those people's lives over all those many decades, for a plant that can grow in the backyard and has so many beneficial uses.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 3:56 p.m.

I am all for people legally growing their own for their own consumption, for medical purposes or recreational reasons. I do have a problem with the current status of these "clinics" and all the altruistic attitudes of helping the infirmed. One can go into a clinic on Main St. when the "doctor" is in and he will issue you a script...never the mind that he's not your's a freakin joke. The majority of "patients" at the clinic next to us are stoners, pot heads...whatever...nothing more wrong with them that an ice pack and rest wouldn't cure...pot cures nothing...but to each his own. I just have a problem with all of the goody two shoes telling me how important this pot deal's a half witted attempt to get high without having the worry of arrest and that's all it is...legalize it already, tax it by licensing or permit purchases by the people growing it for their own personal consumption.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 3 p.m.

@Jeffery, I'm sure you were protesting the CVS on State Street then right? @Bobby, you're right. The prohibition and the resulting black market created by the legislation has caused all of those problems. The examples listed are the unintended consequences of a "War on Drugs" that is based on loose moral ground.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

@ Forever27, sure! Anything to keep folks safer. One thing folks forget, is that criminals are opportunistic... leaving bags in locked cars, opening dispensaries near main arteries... please some common sense?

Bobby Zumbi

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 1:32 p.m.

Can we also look at the bigger picture here? This is not a debate confined to the ivory maze that is Ann Arbor. Smoking dope is something most people try anyway, like beer and sex. But in this case, cannabis and drug prohibition contributes to the following problems (and some you may call this a slippery slope fallacy, but I don't care...): *Border violence; *Imprisonment of non-violent offenders; *Possible rape of such non-violent offenders (if you think that is a slippery slope then you've obviously never had the pleasure of a stint in County) *Destruction of our nation's public forests by drug cartels; *Material and financial support to drug cartels, and, perhaps terrorist networks; *et cetera. We did prohibition already, remember? So why don't you throw Once Upon a Time in America into the blueray player and spark one up already. :)

rusty shackelford

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 1:17 p.m.

Speechless wins comment of the day. Society is slowly recognizing how stupid prohibition is. I'm guessing small steps in the right direction will keep creeping along for another 10-15 years before a sudden paradigm shift, after which we will rapidly move as a country to de facto if not de jure legalization.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 1:06 p.m.

There already is a "drive-in" marijuana's called the dope house. Some even do homedeliveries.

Top Cat

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 12:26 p.m.

All these regulations are silly. People should be allowed to legally grow it and consume it. Amazing that we went through Prohibition in the 1920's and didn't learn a thing.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 11:44 a.m.

@InsideTheHall: In Michigan, marijuana is not prescribed in any particular dose by a physician. The user or caregiver just needs a card. Why would the dispensaries need to be monitored any more than a 7-Eleven? The user determines the dose, there is no expiration, it is not covered by insurance, and there is no danger of overdose or drug interaction; it does not need to be controlled by a pharmacist. Agricultural conglomerates will not get on board until FEDERAL law catches up to the states; then I predict they'll be right in there with the momandpop cultivators.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 11:40 a.m.

"Drive-in medical marijuana dispensaries shall be prohibited." There's a reason drive in pharmacies are allowed; they're important with people who have limited mobility... which I would image would be a lot of people prescribed marijuana would fall into that category. Seems like it kinda violates the ADA. "No smoking, inhalation, or consumption of medical marijuana shall take place on the premises." Taking medication at a pharmacy is not illegal. "All activities of a medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility shall be conducted indoors." Why? "No equipment or process shall be used in any medical marijuana dispensary or cultivation facility which creates noise, dust, vibration, glare, fumes, odors or electrical interference detectable to the normal senses beyond the property boundary." I know so many facilities in ann arbor that do all these things it's ridiculous. To me it looks like a bunch of double standards that people didnt vote for.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 11:35 a.m.

Cannabis:  The bingo of the 21st century.

David Briegel

Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 11:33 a.m.

Foerever27, bugjuice and dogpaddle, you are so correct! Legalize. That should be the logical and libertarian answer. These matters do not belong in the criminal justice system.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 11:08 a.m.

Corporate growers lowering the cost to the end user?? Since when has anything to do with corporations lowered the cost or price of product or commodity? What could cost less than planting a few seeds or clones in your garden or a couple of pots of dirt,add some fertilizer and water then harvest half dozen plants? The grower/user could pay a $50 tax paid to the State of Michigan on each ounce produced by the individual grower. That leaves plenty to GIVE AWAY to patients in need and share with a few close friends. For folks not old enough to remember or those who live in ignorance and fear and those who look at everything in terms of cost and profit/loss, marijuana culture is based on brotherhood, gifting and sharing more than it is making a profit. Allowing corporations to control and profit from marijuana is just substituting one greedy illegal crime ridden bureaucracy for a greedy and profitable legal one. Once the profit incentive is removed from recreational drugs and marijuana use for adults is made boring, usage will drop, drug crime that happens because of the money involved, will disappear. Who would steal pot or rob someone when it can be freely grown or purchased at low cost? Marijuana should be treated just like the legal production of beer and wine for personal consumption. Allow people to produce and use small amounts for personal use. Impose a reasonable tax on it to pay for the treatment of serious drug addicts. Legalization of marijuana is a win/win/win on so many fronts it's pathetic to think that some people still suffer from Reefer Madness.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 10:40 a.m.

Regulate, regulate, regulate. Soon the people will relize that marijuana is not harmful and all these idiotic restrictions are not necessary. I predict that Cannabis will be re-integrated back into society as it was prior to the beginning of the 20th Century. Prior to that time there was no concerns or fears of marijuana and its uses and it was listed in the U.S. Pharmacopoeia as to what it was good for regarding our human bodies. Over 50% of the OTC drugs in any given Drug Store contained Cannabis prior to 1942. Until the U.S. Gov't put marijuana in Federal Schedule I AGAINST the express written concerns from the AMA stating that, "Marijuana should NOT be put in Federal Schedule I for it does have medical effecacies and must be researched." But alas the Federal Gov't totally ignored the AMA and put marijuana in Federal Schedule I which means it is against the law to even study marijuana. OOPS!! I wasn't even supposed to say, more less even think of the word, marijuana. Even just thinking or talking about marijuana would be illegal. Which is what Sen Charle Grassley (R-IA)tried to do with an amendment to a bill. In the amendment it stated, "There will be no discussion of any drugs currently in Federal Schedule I." Which meant martijuana. Six of Grassley's co-horts took him aside in a private room and verbally beat him severely about the head & shoulders to get him to remove that idiotic ammendment which he finally did, against his own will I might add. Sure sounds like we live in a Nazi regime where scientific and medical facts are ignored and personal opinion rules! Welcome to the 21st Century a modern day Dark Ages where scientific & medical facts are silenced and kept from the people while the gov't feeds them disinformation & propaganda. And some of them believe it whole heartedly! Sigh...but its OK because Medical Marijuana is fact. Marijuana is Medicine as decided unamamously by the Iowa Board of Pharmacy who is recommending that the Iowa Legislature remove marijuana from Schedule I and it would end up in Schedule II (where it does not fit either. Marijuana is NOT as dangerous nor addictive as Heroin, Cocaine, LSD and/or methamphetimine) but its a place to start. First marijuana must be removed from every state's pharmacy Schedule I then removed from Federal Schedule I so marijuana/Hemp can be treated as it is...a commodity/ a medicine. It should be grown and measured in bushel baskets not portions of an ounce.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 10:36 a.m.

bigjuice/dogpddle: This just in. The path to full legalization is via Big AG not the hippie providers. Big Ag brings economy of scale lowering the price to the end user. That hippie is gonna wanna make a buck and his lack of scale will result in higher pricing.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

@jeffrey, then you better place those same restrictions on regular pharmacies too. They have codeine and other narcotics in the store. They are far more susceptible to robbery than a marijuana dispensary.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:34 a.m.

I agree with bugjuice. If I were using this natural occurring plant for medicinal purposes, I would not want some big corporation taking over the production and distribution of it and putting additives and crap into it. Unless Whole Foods or the like could be one of the corporations and would sell a variety of "flavors" of the herb and as their discounted 365 brand. They'd have to expand their bakery, too. :) Seriously, since when isn't the small local individual retailer allowed to have a business? Isn't this what makes our communities unique and prosperous? Otherwise, every city would all be just Wal-Marts.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 9:09 a.m.

"Further, large AG companies like ADM and Dole should be the providers." Some folks would prefer to substitute the profit driven big business bureaucracy for the governmental one. Why not just turn medical marijuana over to the tobacco companies? We know how much they care about the health of people who buy their product. "I do not want to see our area, our state to become the South Florida pain clinics of pot." Reefer Madness talking here.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 8:41 a.m.

It is nearly a perfect ordinance. I would suggest adding a clause that individual clinics/dispensaries will be responsible for their own security and the security of their visiting patients in light of the recent robbery of The Liberty Clinic in the 200 block of South Main Street last week. Dispensaries should make necessary arrangements by installing security cameras, hidden alarms, and perhaps bullet proof glass?


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 8:19 a.m.

"Sheriff John Brown always hated me, For what, I don't know: Every time I plant a seed, He say kill it before it grow -" ~Bob Marley


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 8:17 a.m.

Great. Now, with the same energy and focus, let the staff and planning commission get to work on fixing zoning loopholes, definitions and contradictions that allow inappropriate buildings to be approved.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 7:46 a.m.

Awesome! Great to see our city embrace this!


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 7:39 a.m.

All of these zoning laws and medicinal arguments are getting ridiculous. Marijuana is a naturally occurring plant. The usage of which requires no refining and processing to alter it's natural state. There is no reason aside from ambiguous moral grandstanding that this plant is even regulated. People should be able to grow and use it however they want.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 7:35 a.m.

I agree about the oversights. I do not want to see our area, our state to become the South Florida pain clinics of pot.


Wed, Oct 6, 2010 : 6:54 a.m.

Medical Pot is a prescribed drug and should be controlled and dispensed by a pharmacy where the state already has oversight in place. Who will monitor these pot shops???? Sound like more bureaucracy coming. Further, large AG companies like ADM and Dole should be the providers.