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Posted on Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti medical marijuana dispensary first in the state to receive a dispensary license

By Tom Perkins

An Ypsilanti medical marijuana dispensary is the first in the state to receive a dispensary license from a local municipality.

The 3rd Coast Compassion Center, which was also the state’s first medical marijuana dispensary to open its doors in late 2009, received its license from the City of Ypsilanti in May.

The dispensary is located at the corner of Hamilton and Pearl Streets. Because the club was open prior to the city establishing zoning ordinances and a licensing process, it was the first allowed to submit to its application for a license.

Whether or not dispensaries are legal operations has been at the center of a debate since the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved by 63 percent of voters in November 2008. Opponents say there is nothing in the law that allows the centers to exist, while medical marijuana advocates contend they are acting within the law and nothing in the act says they can’t operate.

Dispensaries are not required to be licensed per state law, and such regulatory decisions have been left to local municipalities.

In Ypsilanti Township, there are zoning ordinances in place but no licensing ordinances or procedures. Saline barred possession or sale of medical marijuana last summer. In Ann Arbor, the City Council is expected to vote tonight on a new ordinance that caps the number of dispensaries the city will license at 20. Ann Arbor officials recently decided they don't want to license cultivation facilities or home-grow operations.

Jamie Lowell, who founded 3rd Coast with Darrell Stavros, said “the spirit and intent of the law” is to provide people who use medical marijuana as a legitimate form of health care with uninterrupted access.

3rd Coast and other dispensaries operate by allowing member caregivers and patients to bring their excess cannabis to the club, which is then made available to other patients. No marijuana is grown on the premises, and Lowell said all transactions are small and well within the parameters of the law.

3rd Coast is a private club and no longer has a doctor on site who issues medical marijuana cards to patients. People must demonstrate that they are a licensed caregiver or patient, Lowell said, and 3rd Coast helps patients determine which cannabis strain and method of ingestion is best suited to manage their ailment.

A massage therapist is on site several days a week and the club shares the former funeral parlor with a retail shop offering equipment for ingesting medical marijuana. 3rd Coast is a member of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers and politically active in advocating for medical marijuana patients' rights.

The club holds itself to a higher standard than what is set by the law, Lowell said, which is part of the reason it has flourished.

Lowell said the dispensary supports the idea of licensing the facilities and is generally pleased with the city's ordinances and regulations. Several city officials and council members discussed medical marijuana issues with Stavros, Lowell and others involved in the industry prior to developing ordinances.


Jamie Lowell

Tom Perkins | For

“Charge us for doing this like you may for another entity,” Lowell said. “Do it so that everyone wins … and at the heart of it let’s help the patient.”

Lowell said he appreciated that the city did its due diligence in researching the issue and that Ypsilanti chose to embrace the medical marijuana industry, which he says offers communities significant economic benefits.

“If a municipality chooses to use the law as Ypsilanti has, they get businesses in buildings that have been vacant, jobs are created, it brings in people from out of town who use other businesses like restaurants, it brings in a little money for the city because of license costs, crime is reduced, and they do that all by way of helping patients with their health care,” Lowell said. “This is a great way of doing it and I believe we demonstrated that in Ypsi.”

Lowell said Ypsilanti’s ordinances and regulations were good for business, but he expressed concern with some of the issues related to inspections of residential grow operations in the city’s ordinances.

“I do care about that,” Lowell said. “That’s something I care about more than being just an operator of 3rd Coast. I’m a supporter of this law and advocate for patients more than anything else.”

Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Schreiber said he wasn't aware of any issues with the dispensary.

"Nothing has come to city council, so that's good news," he said.

As of May 6, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs reports 75,522 registered patients in the state — around three times the figure from a year ago.

Four other dispensaries have also been issued license in Ypsilanti, meaning five are legally operating in the city.



Tue, Jun 7, 2011 : 1:55 a.m.

as actionjackson says above, 60% of Michiganders voted for the med marihuana proposal (the state insists on spelling it with an h, so what the heck...) just as importantly, every single county in the state of Michigan went for it--even the conservative counties of the west. the people decided.

miller lite

Tue, Jun 7, 2011 : midnight

less harmful then alcohol


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9:51 p.m.

Good for Ypsilanti and 3rd Coast! however the title is wrong their are other dispensaries in the state that have been given a license to operate by their local municipalities. Burton MI has given generalbusiness licenses to 3 dispensaries and one other was given a special land use permit to operate. Kudos to Burton, Ypsilanti and all other municapls that are embracing the cause and need for safe access for patients..

David Briegel

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

Terrin, the real reason that pot is illegal is because Pfizer has no patent! Otherwise it would be legal tomorrow! Or sooner!!

Wilford John Presler IV

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9:13 p.m.

Congratulations to Mr Jamie Lowell! You are truly a freedom fighter and a brave patriot!

Martin Church

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 4:39 p.m.

If we have to have these operations then they should face the same regulations as any other pharmacy. in fact I have to ask why are we not dispensing from licensed pharmacy such as walmart, or walgreen. Oh yeah, it's still a federal crime to distribute this substance. so we now are violating the federal laws. Perhaps it is time to arrest the entire city council and Mayor for distribution. Since these shops have open we have seen on increase in drug flow through our city. Thanks for wasting our tax dollars and risking the lives of our citizens on another snake oil deal.

Wilford John Presler IV

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9 p.m.

1) Pharmacies are federally licensed they cannot dispense MMJ 2)Federal Attorney General Eric Holder TODAY threatened the sovereignty of State regulators and legislators 3)Do you have any PROOF of this outrageous allegation of "on increase in drug flow through our city" or is this a "personal observation" (85% of the people quoting statistics made up those self same statistics)


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 6:47 p.m.

I don't know what city your'e talking about but I can tell you for a fact that it's no more easy or difficult to get weed now as opposed to 10yrs ago

Terrin Bell

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 5:08 p.m.

You can't arrest the City as it is covered under state sovereignty. Further, do we really want the federal government mandating what we do on a local level? The federal government should have less power, not more. The only reason marijuana is illegal is because big drug companies know it is a better and less expensive form of pain relief. I also am unsure how tax dollars are being wasted when the business pays taxes. Last I checked, Ypsilanti needs all the help there that it can get.


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 3:32 p.m.

This is so exciting! I think this distinction will bode well for this area. There will be no doubt in peoples mind that the greater Ann Arbor area is marijuana friendly and a great place to raise a family. At least there is an opportunity for people stressed out by the bad economy to get some help legally. It's amazing how many sick younger people frequent these establishments, especially on Fridays. I'm glad they're getting the help they need; I was astonished how sick the young people in this area are. Thank God for medical marijuana and congratulations to the fine city of Ypsilanti for this great honor.


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 10:32 p.m.

A lot of sick people visit this establishment. People get sick at all ages. Just wait until you or someone you love are sick and need to visit such an establishment. You will eat your words.


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9:15 p.m.

Yeah - haven't they ever heard of "Happy Hour"?

John B.

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 6 p.m.

Sounds like a bunch of beers and shots are in order for you, huh? Or perhaps you could pop some happy pills in celebration? Or both simultaneously - what the heck?


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 3:24 p.m.

"retail shop offering equipment for ingesting medical marijuana" I think a less wordy phrase is "head shop" - but maybe then they would need to sell High Times and Freak Brothers comics too.


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 9:18 p.m.

You can get High Times at Meijers and Barnes and Noble...


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 3:10 p.m.

Great idea to put it so close to a college campus.


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 12:04 p.m.

Good for Ypsilanti and their awareness of democracy. Michigan Voters petitioned for this law to be voted upon and over 60% of Michigan residents voted in favor of these dispensaries. That was a few years ago and we are finally catching up to the legal process. As for Saline it appears democracy doesn't work. Evidently bars and liquor stores are the "dispensaries" that Saline residents are happy with. Along with the pharmaceutical drug stores popping up on every main corner for the chemical compounds that according to 60 Minutes are selling knock off tablets and capsules Saline residents will be happy with those.

Christopher LeClair

Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 11:57 a.m.

I think this is a great step in the right direction for the residents in the area who can really take advantage of medicial marijuana. While there is of course the potential for small scale abuse, it is dwarfed by the illegal use already taking place all over the city. I have never encountered a more marijuana friendly city in my life (Well aside from Amsterdam), it is quite interesting. I hope all goes well!


Mon, Jun 6, 2011 : 3:34 p.m.

Thanks for your opinion, you've certainly changed my view on this important topic.