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Posted on Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 9:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti City Council agrees to moratorium on medical marijuana dispensaries

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti was arguably the first city in Michigan to see a medical marijuana dispensary open, but the city is saying no more for three months.

The Ypsilanti City Council voted 4-2 on Tuesday night to approve an emergency moratorium on business licenses for any new medical marijuana dispensaries or large-scale nurseries for the next 90 days.

City staff is in the process of figuring out how to zone medical marijuana-related businesses and what sort of regulations to enact. City officials say they want to have those guidelines in place before any new operations open up.

3rd Coast Compassion Center_2.jpg

"Super Lemon Haze" medical marijuana is available at the 3rd Coast Compassion Center, 19 N. Hamilton St. in Ypsilanti.

Tom Perkins |

The moratorium will become effective after the council’s second reading on Aug. 17, and it's only applicable to those seeking to open a business. City Attorney John Barr said it will not affect current businesses or caregivers and patients who grow marijuana in their homes while following state law.

A state-certified caregiver can grow up to 60 plants for five qualified patients, and an additional 12 if he or she is a patient. The plants must remain in a locked and secured room.

The rule also wouldn't affect retail shops that offer products for growing or ingesting marijuana.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act passed in 2008, and municipalities statewide have been forced to make their own interpretations of what some say is a vaguely written law.

Most municipalities are taking one of three approaches to regulating medical marijuana use and distribution - embracing the law, banning medical marijuana or seeking a middle ground.

Barr said the staff is looking at the many different ordinances municipalities have developed, and will likely make recommendations to the planning commission at its August meeting.

“The staff team is going to make some recommendation within 90 days,” Barr said. “They’re asking there to be a moratorium of permits to give them a little bit of breathing room until they can make it … what we would like to do is have a unified ordinance and not have a lot of things change in the meantime.”

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the concerns beyond zoning ordinances include code enforcement and whether, for example, someone has adequate electricity to run grow lights in their home and isn't presenting a public health risk.

She emphasized staff is not looking to ban the use or distribution of medical marijuana.

Ypsilanti’s 3rd Coast Compassion Center is the only large dispensary operating in the city. Darrell Stavros, a partner at 3rd Coast, said while a moratorium would benefit his business by keeping competitors out, he is against it.

He said 3rd Coast sees roughly 70-90 patients per day, and estimated 90 percent of them reside outside Ypsilanti. Stavros pointed out that creates more traffic through local businesses, and a moratorium would only serve to slow growth.

“I don’t want to see that happen, I want to see more businesses come to Ypsilanti,” he said, later adding he was also concerned the moratorium could affect patients and caregivers who operate out of their home.

Council Member Brian Robb has been active in seeking information on the issue. He voted against the moratorium and questioned whether the city could place a moratorium on issuing business licenses to pizza parlors or antique shops, to which Barr replied it could.

“I understand we are going to have to adapt to this, but I don’t want to taint the waters just yet,” Robb said before casting a "no" vote.

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


Ypsiosaurus Wrecks

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 : 1:26 p.m.

I agree - Ypsi city council seems to be trying to hurt business. It seem strange that now they want to stop issuing permits. It really is the only booming business in our state. @Andy - I agree - it is rare I agree with Brian Robb - but he is right on this issue. Why would we want to do anything to discourage business? All they are doing is locking down business for the current dispensary - even the owners say it's a bad idea. If the city council had any real common sense - they would let Water Street become a Medical Marijuana development. Ypsi city council is, on many issues, cutting off it's nose to spite it's face...

Tom Perkins

Fri, Jul 23, 2010 : 10:39 a.m.

Kate, Just about every municipality in the state is dealing with the same issue right now. The first dispensary in the state opened up in December, and I don't think anyone in local government knew exactly what was coming. Check out this article here:


Fri, Jul 23, 2010 : 9:18 a.m.

Why is this suddenly an "emergency?" The law was, after all, passed in 2008, so there has been time to think about what should be done before this. If it hasn't been thought of, why not? And whose fault is that? Ypsilanti's City Council can do its study without having this moratorium in place. It isn't necessary and just shows the city isn't on top of things. I'm disgusted with the lack of foresight revealed by this.


Wed, Jul 21, 2010 : 8:16 p.m.

It's not often I find myself in agreement with Brian Robb and Trudy Swanson-Winston, but today I do. Like it or not, Medical Marijuana is here, it's legal, and it about the only booming industry in Michigan. Why would city council want to discourage people from opening Medical Marijuana businesses in Ypsilanti? Do we not need the tax money? Ann Arbor seems to be doing just fine with the 4 or 5 dispensaries they have. They didn't have to radically change their zoning. And Ypsi Township took about three weeks to come up with a solution. Yes, dispensaries are a legal grey area in Michigan's Medical Marijuana law, but to be frank, I don't care. I want new tax revenue in our financially desperate city. If it's decided later that Michigan didn't really make dispensaries legal, at least we made a little money off it. A three month moratorium to study the issue is more than enough time to miss out on that chance, and passing it by emergency resolution means that residents don't even get a real chance to voice their opinion. I've heard it said that Michigan is the wild west of Medical Marijuana. And why did Americans flock west? To try their hand and making their fortune. Ypsilanti could surely use a little fortune right now. What is wrong in Ypsi that we have such huge problems with zoning? There have been zoning recommendations in place for Water Street for some time, and council refuses to pass them. In that case, some members of council believe that not having zoning in place encourages more businesses to inquire about the property, though so far, council has rejected proposals because they don't fit the vision for the property. If they have a clear vision of what should be there, isn't the next step to enact zoning to show developers what that vision is? In this case, we're worried that our zoning laws can't handle this new type of business, though really, the process shouldn't be any different then the process for any other legal business. You just have to decide which part of the zoning ordinance dispensaries fall under; retail, medical, industrial, office; is that really so hard? Ypsi Township didn't think so. But in the City of Ypsilanti, we're making it look more like an Ann Arbor Historical District zoning battle: if we just stall for three more months the problem (read:businesses, developers and tax revenue) might go away. I have an idea. Let's just zone all of Water Street as a Medical Marijuana Enterprise Zone. We do something with the vacant land, we coral all Medical Marijuana activities in one spot. We attract businesses from far and wide, generate tax revenue and jobs, and everybody lives happily ever after.