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Posted on Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 5:57 a.m.

Ypsilanti relicenses medical marijuana facilities amid state-level fight over legality of operations

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti’s medical marijuana dispensaries can continue to operate for another year with the city’s approval.

Now, all parties will see what 2012 holds at the state level for the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008. Dispensaries and commercial grow operations aren’t addressed in the legislation and have been at the center of the debate between proponents and those seeking to limit the act.

In December, city staff relicensed all four Ypsilanti dispensaries and one grow operation that has yet to open. City Planner Teresa Gillotti said there have not been issues at any of Ypsilanti’s dispensaries and they all passed licensing inspections from multiple city departments.

"We haven’t had any problems with police calls or anything of that nature, so we’re going to continue until there’s a little more clarity from the state or courts on how we should proceed one way or the other,” she said.


Jamie Lowell of 3rd Coast Compassion Center.

Tom Perkins | For

The city took months in determining how to regulate dispensaries through zoning and licensing ordinances.

Because of local zoning restrictions put in place by staff and City Council, twelve dispensaries could potentially open in Ypsilanti, but only four have done so over the past year. The 3rd Coast Compassion Center at Hamilton and Pearl streets was the first dispensary in Michigan to open and the first in the state to receive a dispensary license from a local municipality in June.

Although there have been multiple raids at medical marijuana dispensaries throughout the state last year, including at two Ann Arbor facilities, Jamie Lowell, a partner at 3rd Coast, said that his business has never closed.

He praised Ypsilanti for working with the medical marijuana community while developing zoning ordinances.

“The city has been great,” he said. “We feel very proud to be here and we think that it’s a progressive, open-minded city. That’s how they’re acting with this issue.”

Lowell and medical marijuana advocates’ issues have been with State Attorney General Bill Schuette, who campaigned against the MMMA prior to serving as attorney general and has sought to restrict and limit the act since being elected.

Lowell is part of the Michigan Association of Compassion Centers (MACC), which charges Schuette’s interpretation of the MMMA limits its intent - to provide easily accessible medicine to patients who need it. Advocates say that includes allowing patients access through dispensaries and commercial operations.


3rd Coast Compassion Center.

Tom Perkins | For

MACC is supporting the concept of a local option that would leave regulating dispensaries and grow operations to local municipalities.

Lowell said that would help solve local municipalities’ dilemma over how to handle commercial operations.

“A city or town could decide to take advantage of the economic development opportunities and embrace the allocation of commercial space as Ypsilanti has done. The safe access points such as 3rd Coast would then be recognized by the state,” Lowell said. “This would make a lot of things much easier for municipalities struggling with what to do and what they can do.”

Voters in all but one ward in Ypsilanti approved the MMMA by at least 80 percent.

“There seems to be majority support in most cities and towns by the local leaders to respect the will of their constituents and help to carry out the purpose of the law, but the uncertainty and misinformation from the attorney general's office and elsewhere makes it a much more difficult task than it really should be,” Lowell said.

Proposed draft legislation circulating in Lansing states “a dispensary that has been granted a municipal registration or license, or that is otherwise allowed by municipal law, and the dispensary’s dispensary agents acting on its behalf, shall not be subject to criminal penalties under any state law …. “

It continues with variations of some of the regulations that are included in Ypsilanti’s zoning ordinance, such as prohibiting dispensaries from operating in residential zones.

The draft legislation is one of dozens of pieces of legislation related to the MMMA that are at various stages in the legislative process, and the Michigan Supreme Court will soon hear several cases.

Until a final decision on dispensaries arrives from the state, Ypsilanti will continue down a cautious path, Gillotti said.

“We’re continuing monitoring what’s going on with a variety of court cases and we’ve seen a few opinions come down,” she said. “We feel that the dispensaries in Ypsilanti are complying as much as they’re able to, but it’s still very murky.”


Scott Watkins

Sat, Jan 7, 2012 : 4:43 a.m.

The one thing we need to remember is in a trial, a jury can see right through the foolishness of law enforcement trying to find confusion in the law where in fact there is none. The law does a very good job of explaining and defining what a patient and/or caregiver can and cannot do. It never addressed dispensaries, but it does state patient to patient transfers are legal. Between that and jury nullification we can still take some control of the situation while we vote the best we can, which means uniting and sifting through the liars and finding the lesser of the evils who has a point of view more akin to ours. Thus far, Ron Paul has been the closest we've come. Obama and Newt are 100% against the medical marihuana laws, let alone the repeal of prohibition. Lawmakers are literally saying keep supporting those Mexican cartels. The ATF supplies them with guns, so who cares?? WE DO!!!

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:32 p.m.

I am not a customer of any of these establishments and I am sure they won't mind me saying that I hope I never will be. But I am glad to have them in my community. They pay taxes and provide some people jobs. I can also say that as an Ypsilanti resident, I have not had a single negative experience with any of these establishments or their customers. That is not something I can say about some of the liquor stores in the city.


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 4:08 p.m.

Legalize it, regulate it and tax the living daylight out of it!


Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 1:06 a.m.

I never knew so many people who read had "chronic" pain and needed this particular medicine.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Fri, Jan 6, 2012 : 5:36 p.m.

You would be surprised how many people suffer from things like chronic pain. I have read that it can be as high as 15% of the population with 5% needing medication. That would mean literally *thousands* of potential customers for these establishments in Washtenaw County alone. Granted many of those people will choose more mainstream treatments but I am sure this works for many of these folks.

E. Manuel Goldstein

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:39 p.m.

Meanwhile, back in Ann Arbor... City Attorney Stephen Postema recently sent out cease and desist letters to the Ann Arbor dispensaries. This Schuette wannabe should cease and desist himself, and realize he is working against the mores of his own communnity, which also voted overwhelmingly in favor of the MMMA. Too bad he is not an elected official who could be removed from office, but then the Ann Arbor City Council should rein Postema in for taking part in Schuette's crusade. Another pressure point should be County Prosecutor Brian Mackie, who is up for re-election. One wonders if he will also participate in the Schuette crusade. Can find out what Mackie's intent is? And FOIA to find out why MedMar was raided, and who initiated the raid?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 8:15 p.m.

So much time and energy wasted on such a minor issue in society. If the Feds just legalized it like liquor, they could eliminate much crime and violence, especially on the Mexican border, and stop creating criminals of decent folks.....what a waste of taxpayer money and resources to no avail...that's the real crime in the case of marijuana. Enforcement feeds a lot of government bloat, ties up our courts, creates crime just like prohibition gave rise to organized crime. Government bloat wants to stay fat though, it's job security at the expense of social justice. Next time you get sick, go see cop, lawyer, or judge to cure you.

Wilford John Presler IV

Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:51 p.m.

At last! The City of Ypsilanti is sustaining Sanity and Reason amidst all of the Lies, Innuendo and Political Rhetoric forwarded us by an attorney general who was sworn to uphold the laws and not attempt to "reinterpret" the law to support his own political agenda. I suspect that in the coming weeks the Mi AGs Office will attempt to threaten the city planner and/or otherwise coerce the City of Ypsilanti to comply with his personal agenda. If all else fails Mr Schuette will attack the dispensaries directly. Teresa Gillotti said there have not been issues at any of Ypsilanti's dispensaries and they all passed licensing inspections from multiple city departments."We haven't had any problems with police calls or anything of that nature, so we're going to continue until there's a little more clarity from the state or courts on how we should proceed one way or the other," she said. Seems to me the only "danger to the community" is when the AG orders the local SWAT or other Tactical Team to attack the dispensaries in Full Tactical Mode complete with their black ballistics and full automatic weapons! Thank You Mr Jamie Lowell and the MACCfor defending the People of the State Michigan and especially the Medical Marijuana Community against this costly, vicious, relentless,merciless and most of all needless pursuit and persecution by an out of control Office of the Attorney General Bill Schuette.


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 4:01 p.m.

To all Ann Arbor Council persons and the Mayor, Why can't things be this easy in AA?


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 2:09 p.m.

Do medical marijuana proprietors get to sample their wares? Just wondering after reading the article and looking at the pictures.....


Thu, Jan 5, 2012 : 9:40 p.m.

That was my first thought too, lol!