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Posted on Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 6:03 a.m.

Vote on medical marijuana ordinance delayed two weeks by Ann Arbor Planning Commission

By Ryan J. Stanton

The Ann Arbor Planning Commission postponed taking any action on a new medical marijuana ordinance Tuesday night at the advice of city staff.

A vote on the issue now is expected at the Planning Commission's next meeting on Oct. 5. The ordinance would then go before the Ann Arbor City Council for a first reading by Oct. 18, with final approval shortly thereafter.

"There are outstanding issues we're trying to clear up," said City Planner Jill Thacher, who has been working on a draft zoning ordinance regulating where medical marijuana dispensaries and home-based operations will be allowed in the city, along with limits on their uses.


A large crowd of medical marijuana advocates filled the pews inside city hall Tuesday night as the Ann Arbor Planning Commission deliberated.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"We are learning things every hour about medical marijuana," Thacher said. "And we really need to hear public comments because that's one of the ways that we're gathering a lot of information about how dispensaries work, how caregivers operate, what patients desire."

The Planning Commission heard feedback from about 15 people during a public hearing at Tuesday's meeting. The general consensus was that the ordinance, as currently drafted, goes too far and includes too many restrictions.

Speakers took exception to the part of the ordinance that states no dispensaries could be allowed within 500 feet of one another, within 1,000 feet of a school, or within 200 feet of a residential district. Some also objected to the part that stipulates all activity in a medical marijuana dispensary, including growing and dispensing, must be done indoors.

"First of all, I don't see any reason why there needs to be a 200-foot spacing from a residential area. Each site plan presumably will be individually considered on its own merits," said Matthew Abel, a Detroit-based attorney specializing in marijuana law. "Secondly, I don't see any reason why facilities can't be closer to each other than 500 feet."

Due to a heavy agenda Tuesday night, the public hearing didn't come until more than four hours into the meeting, which went past 12:30 a.m. this morning.

"It's been a long wait. I haven't had any of my medicine since before dinner, and I am in extraordinary pain right now," said Chuck Ream, a longtime medical marijuana advocate who last month opened a dispensary on Packard Road.

Ream reminded city officials that Ann Arbor voters overwhelmingly supported medical marijuana on two separate occasions in 2004 and 2008.

"Our people here are smart enough to realize that medical marijuana prohibition is much more dangerous to people's lives than marijuana," he said.

Those who advocated on behalf of the medical marijuana community Tuesday night urged city officials to set aside stereotypes about pot smokers and see medical marijuana as they see it — as a natural medicine administered by compassionate caregivers to registered patients.

Speakers asked planning officials to treat medical marijuana dispensaries the same way they treat pharmacies that provide prescription drugs to sick people.

"There's no reason to be 200 feet from a residential area," Ream said. "We don't have cooties. We are helping people. This is discriminatory — highly exclusionary."

Planning Commissioner Erica Briggs said she agreed the ordinance as currently drafted may be too limiting.

"I think some legitimate concerns were brought up," she said.

Commissioner Evan Pratt disagreed that the ordinance is exclusionary.

"I would remind people that, in our zoning code, pharmacies are restricted," he said. "There's not that many places that pharmacies can go, yet we seem to see a lot of them. So I didn't have a concern that the ability to provide services would be in any way compromised."

Planning Commissioner Tony Derezinski, who also serves on the Ann Arbor City Council, said he recently toured a new medical marijuana dispensary above Vinology on Main Street. It's one of eight or nine dispensaries city officials believe are operating in the city now.


Sam Mendez addresses the Planning Commission Tuesday night. He identified himself as both a patient and a caregiver and said he's in the process of starting up a company called Green Home Medics that will connect people with free medical marijuana.

Ryan J. Stanton |

"They showed us the public areas. They also showed us where the substance was kept was in another room, and where it was dispensed was in another room as well that was very private," he said. "It looked like a very well-run institution, very clean, and very professional. I think that's the impression that they wanted to give, and they did a good job of giving it."

The City Council approved a four-month moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries last month in an effort to give city staff time to come up with zoning regulations. Some residents had complained to the city about medical marijuana operations near where they live. The moratorium expires Dec. 3, and city officials are moving quickly to get an ordinance in place.

Sam Mendez, who spoke before the Planning Commission Tuesday night and identified himself as both a patient and a caregiver, said he's in the process of starting up a company called Green Home Medics that will connect people with free medical marijuana.

"We are a home health care nursing company staffed with registered nurses, nurse technicians, nurse aids, botanists and master cultivators who have all agreed to donate their time, money and energy to the patients of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Program," Mendez said in an interview after Tuesday's meeting. "We never charge patients a dime for the medicine that we produce for them, and we bring it to their door."

Mendez said the location of the operation is secret, but it's based in Washtenaw County and started Sept. 3. He said the facility has the capacity to accommodate 15 to 20 patients.

"We currently only have one patient," he said, "so we're looking for patients now."

  • Click here to read the latest draft of the medical marijuana ordinance.
  • Click here to read the latest city staff report on the medical marijuana ordinance.

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


Peoples Choice

Fri, Sep 24, 2010 : 10:44 a.m.

Right on Sam, you are truly respected by us all here at Peoples Choice. Thanks for your support, this community owes you a huge debt, we are Proud to call you Friend! Adam/Peoples Choice Alternative Medicine!


Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

The practice of serving an alterior motive, by attaching a mundane issue to an important agenda in an effort to thin out dissenters, is not a new one. I fear that this practice will continue on the California ballot in November. Attaching an outlandish ammendment that wouldn't normally pass on its own to such an important piece of legislation would prompt voters who actually read the proposed legislation to vote down such a proposition. A similar practice was observed on Wednesday night, with the AACPC pushing the ever mounting medical marijuana ordinance into the early hours of Thursday morning. By doing so, the commission thought that they could silence those speakers who may have had the most imporant comments of the night. These speakers (who are most likely those severely disabled and require the use of such medication to function and increase their quality of life) were effectively ignored, as the meeting seemed intentionally set up so that there was no accommodation for these people who could not medicate at the meeting and were forced to wait agonizingly for hours for the opportunity to have their concerns voiced. We were told that the individual patient or caregivers' voices were the most factor in considering the ammendment to the new ordinance, but we were shown something completely different. The needs of the many outweigh the concerns of the few, and while it is possible to have a spokesperson for those unable to voice their concerns or even appear at these CPC meetings, but the planning commission needs to see the pure volume of citizens who are in desperate legitimate need of medicine, and without accommodation for their opinions to be heard, it looks like the most important speakers are effectively silenced. Such is the bureaucracy of America as it has been for decades, its time for a change. On a side note, Mr. Mendez, I commend you on establishing a business that provides to those most in need, who may not be able to afford such care or don't have the accommodation to provide for themselves. There are too many "compassionate businesses" that are just looking to take advantage for financial gain. The spirit of the movement is being lost in bureaucracy and greed. Its refreshing to see such a legitimate venture being undertaken by a concerned and educated citizen. Hopefully more will follow your fine example.

James D'Amour

Thu, Sep 23, 2010 : 10:59 a.m.

After reading some of the initial comments here, I felt I had to respond here. As a former member of the Ann Arbor City Planning Commission and in attendance at latter part of meeting, albeit for the Fuller Road issue, I would agree with Mr. Ream and Mr. Mendez here on the issue of waiting so late in the evening. The treatment of people waiting to speak on medical marijuana was very inappropriate. @liberalNIMBY: that's a good suggestion, re: getting designated "benchsitters". However, the burden is still upon the commission and city staff to do everything possible to accommodate better access for the public to comment on any issue or project before the commission. Now, on the Fuller discussion (agenda item prior to medical marijuana zoning item), to be sure, there were many issues that needed to be addressed, and staff/consultants needed to provide information (the question of the quality and comprehensiveness that was provided necessary for commissioners to make a informed decision is another matter, but not germane to this comment thread here). However, commissioners in my view let staff drone on unnecessarily and on non-germane points far too often. It can certainly comfortably be said Misters Cooper, Mitchell (Fuller Road station staff and architect), and Kosteva (UM community relations) certainly love the sound of their own voices. The pitfall of pretentiousness by this commission that I suppose comes with this territory was also in full force. The time of this agenda item action could have been cut down considerably, giving greater opportunity for the next group of folk to speak, and perhaps give commission members time to move this item of importance to many along more quickly. Whatever your views are of Fuller Road Station, or medical marijuana zoning, the many, many citizens who were there waiting for their turn to comment were ill-served by this city and this commission Tuesday night. There's no excuse for this, as commissioners had several opportunities prior to and during meeting to adjust agenda.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 4:38 p.m.

The 1000 feet from a school part is the key. U of M is counted as a school. Draw the circles on a map. There is almost no where to put a site inside the City. This is the "Let's make it Ypsi's problem" ordinance. If you need marijuana to help with the effects of cancer, for example, you will need to drive miles to get it.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 2:06 p.m.

Word on the street is the PC is waiting until Mayor H appoints a "Pot testing Czar" to ensure quality control. Human Resources is writing the job description. It then has to undergo legal review. Then it has to be budgeted for and requires Council approval. Council is expected to form a committee and conduct a nationwide search. Big wheels tend to churn slooooooooowly!


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 1:12 p.m.

Cannabis should be allowed for anyone over the age of 18 to use as they see fit, be it for recreation or for medicine.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 12:53 p.m.

Sam, You might seek feedback from the planning folks in City Hall regarding the order of the agenda -- I believe there is a formal process/convention in determining the order. For future meetings, you might want to follow the strategy of some other groups who have been interested in something late in the agenda: they wait comfortably in a restaurant or somebody's home nearby, send in a couple of people who don't mind sitting a long time in the meeting, and have them call/text the rest of the group when it's time for the item they're interested in. Sorry to hear about the bad experience.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:50 a.m.

Along with appointments to city boards, agenda scheduling is a tactic often used by politicians and frequently abused by those in power here in Ann Arbor to exclude and limit public input in council chambers.

Sam Mendez

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:32 a.m.

I feel we made progress at last nights meeting. However I wonder how two known impassioned topics (Medical Marijuana and the Fuller Road Parking Garage) made it on the same agenda? Did no one see that putting the two subjects on the same agenda would result in an all night meeting? Or is it that the commission did see, and knew exactly what they were doing when they made this agenda, putting Medical Marijuana at the end of it, forcing the sick and injured population of Ann Arbor sit on Hardwood benches for 5 hours if they wanted their voices heard. About 3/4 of the Medical Marijuana supporters that showed up to the meeting at 7pm were to debilitated to sit on those benches until midnight, and so had left by the time the Commission got to the topic, their voices going silent, and their needs falling on the deaf ears of the Commission. I even noticed 2 commissioners looking around the room and laughing at the beginning of the Medical Marijuana proceedings. PLEASE, IF YOU ARE ONE OF THE SICK AND INJURED, OR THEIR CAREGIVERS LIVING IN ANN ARBOR, DO NOT FORGET THIS WHEN IT IS ELECTION TIME!!!! The planning commission ought to hang it's collective head in SHAME for the lack of respect they showed to the sick and injured of this city. These people are appointed by the Mayor, and we must let the Mayor know that we will not tolerate such a clear abuse of power as this commission showed when knowingly making out last nights agenda in a fashion that prevented much of the sick and injured from being heard. Call the Mayor today and let them know they do have your vote in the future, unless they address this unscrupulous Planning Commission. We must see this commission dissolved immediately, and replaced with one that has the needs of all the city's people in mind. The sick and injured should not be made to suffer for wanting their government to hear their voices. We live in modern day America, not Cold War era Russia, and the Ann Arbor Planning Commission needs to wake up to this fact....S.Mendez


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:24 a.m.

A wise, long time, federal bureaucrat once told me that "Bureaucrats may do only what the law allows. People may do whatever the law does not prohibit". It seems that many government bureaucrats, the ones who are "confused" by the law, can't seem to get past their own Reefer Madness and are trying to pervert the law for their own personal and political gain. Do not pass more anti marijuana laws that extend beyond the current law to cover what politicians and bureaucrats with personal and political agendas claim is "vague". All they are doing is looking for any excuse to continue the madness of prohibition. Most people seem to forget that since the 40's "marijuana culture" in the USA is not based on profit and avarice but based on giving, community and peace.