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Posted on Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 12:30 p.m.

Ypsilanti City Council gives final approval to medical marijuana ordinance

By Tom Perkins

Ypsilanti is the latest municipality to approve a zoning ordinance regulating medical marijuana growing and distribution.

Unanimous approval of the ordinance on second reading on Tuesday night followed a City Council debate over the minimum distance that should be allowed between dispensaries and grow operations, which will affect how many of those facilities can exist within the city. The council had earlier approved a first reading of the ordinance.

Council ultimately agreed on a minimum distance of 500 feet, but the number of dispensaries and grow operations could be capped when council votes on a resolution covering licensing at an upcoming meeting. Ann Arbor is also considering capping the number of dispensaries.

Under the new regulations, dispensaries and grow facilities must remain 1,000 feet from schools and 500 feet from other dispensaries and grow facilities. Dispensaries are permitted to operate in central, local and general business districts, and grow operations are allowed in some commercial and manufacturing zones.

Some council and community members were concerned whether 500 feet was enough to prevent the city and downtown from being overrun by medical marijuana facilities. City Planner Teresa Gillotti said the maximum number of dispensaries and grow operations that could exist in the city would be just over 30 —about 15 of each.

She said the maximum number of facilities that could fit downtown is five.

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But she said those numbers represented unlikely, high-end scenarios and said that 20 to 25 dispensaries and grow operations in the city and three downtown was a better estimate. Given the location of the 3rd Coast Compassion Center dispensary and a new dispensary planned at 124 West Michigan Avenue next to The Rocket, the 500 foot circles around the two dispensaries preclude more facilities in most of downtown. Gillotti said only one more would likely open up in the downtown area.

If that distance were increased to 1,000 feet, only two facilities could be downtown while 20 to 25 dispensaries could hypothetically fit in the city, though the number that would likely locate there is far less, Gillotti said.

Council Member Mike Bodary suggested an amendment placing a cap of six dispensaries and grow operations in the city. He withdrew that amendment after other council members expressed a desire to consider a cap when they approve a licensing resolution.

Bodary called the possibility of 35 dispensaries and grow operations in Ypsilanti “scary”.

“I think we need to set a maximum number that is very small and keep it small until we hear that there are not enough of these places available … 500 feet is not a lot,” he said.

Council Member Brian Robb contended that there likely wouldn’t be anywhere near 35 facilities and strongly opposed a cap.

“We shouldn’t be making policy based on fear — that’s not good policy,” he said.

Restrictions on signs that would prohibit facilities from using the word marijuana, any slang associated with it or imagery associated with the drug was omitted from the second reading over concerns that such restrictions could violate First Amendment rights.

An amendment to reinstate that language failed by a 4-3 vote, with Bodary, Council Member Dan Vogt and Mayor Pro Tem Lois Richardson voting yes.

Dispensaries and grow facilities must keep a logbook of the amount of marijuana on their premises and the identities of their customers. Both would be subject to inspection by code and law enforcement officials, and both must have proper licensing from the city.

Grow operations and dispensaries will not be allowed in the same building and no one will be allowed to use marijuana on the premises.

Grow facilities can have up to five patients or caregivers who can grow the 72 plants they are each allowed under state law. The ordinance does not limit the physical limitation is put on the size of the facility.

City Council also approved an emergency measure early in the meeting that extended a 90-day moratorium prohibiting any new dispensaries or grow facilities by 60 days. The old moratorium was set to expire on Dec. 15, but the licensing ordinance may not go into affect until Jan. 7. Once that ordinance is approved, council can end the emergency moratorium. Home based care givers are limited to dedicating 25 percent or 300 feet of their home for growing. They can grow in single family homes, but not rental units. Care givers or patients can have 72 plants for up to five patients and themselves, and must obtain a business permit from the city.

Home-based businesses also must: • Obtain permits for any mechanical, electrical or plumbing upgrades to accommodate growing medical marijuana. • Have their homes or grow facilities open to inspection by code officials. • Keep transactions between caregivers and patients limited to appointments instead of on a “walk-in” or retail arrangement. • Provide clarification on where in a home or building a grow operation will be located. • Have only one person growing per parcel.

Council also added an amendment prohibiting home businesses from operating within 1,000 feet of a school. Robb was the lone no vote against that amendment. He said that would prohibit home-based care givers throughout several neighborhoods because so many schools in Ypsilanti are located in residential zones.

A person can still grow and ingest medical marijuana for him or herself within 1,000 feet of a school.

Several Washtenaw County municipalities have been struggling with how to regulate medical marijuana after Michigan voters approved its use in 2008. Among them are Ann Arbor and Dexter. Ypsilanti Township already has an ordinance regulating medical marijuana dispensaries. Saline has banned dispensaries and Chelsea is considering a similar ban.

Dave Heikkinen, owner of Heikk's Decorated Apparel Studio and in Ypsilanti and president of the Downtown Association of Ypsilanti, told council he and other business owners downtown supported the idea of extending the distance between facilities to 750 feet. But he added “most of all we want to see this ordinance passed.”

Ed Penet, also a downtown business owner, expressed similar feelings.

“I would like to avoid having any more dispensaries within 1,000 feet of my business,” he said.

Adam Tasselmyer plans to open the Herbal Solutions medical marijuana dispensary at 124 West Michigan Ave. He pointed out that his business is 973 feet from the 3rd Coast Compassion Center, and he has already invested significantly in it based on the ordinance passed on first reading. He said he has worked with the city officials on the project.

“I understand there's a reputation with this business, but we're going to be an example of how things should be done correctly within Michigan state law,” he said. “We’re not selling drugs, we’re providing services to patients.”

Tom Perkins is a freelance reporter for For more Ypsilanti stories, see our Ypsilanti page.



Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 1:30 p.m.

Wow, Martin. You really know how to prove your point.

Martin Church

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 1:02 p.m.

Just remember this at one time smoking tobacco was considered good for your health.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 12:21 p.m.

Thanks, LC, but I don't think anybody can blog (or talk) anything to a brighter future. You have to back it up with actions. I left this out: Mr. Robb and I don't agree on a whole lot, but one quote form him above is probably the not only one of the smartest things I have ever heard him say, but words to govern any city, state, or country by: We shouldnt be making policy based on fear thats not good policy,


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 12:07 p.m.

I'm thankful there are dedicated citizens like Andy to make comments about every story. Thank you for your effort. You are blogging Ypsilanti to a brighter future. Please don't ever stop.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 10:49 a.m.

@Pete, you comment shows you lack of research on the Festival issue, and seems to show contempt for the coalition of festival leaders that asked you to change. The only events who would have had to add a dollar or less to compensate for your festival tax would have been some of the car shows, maybe the Jaycee's Circus. At last years ticket price, Jamboree would have added $2.50 per ticket at 10%. And if you look, I went on record as saying that your festival tax, while it would have hurt our organization, would not have crippled us. However, you had groups like Heritage Fest looking to step up and take responsibility for the parks along with the ticketed events, telling you you were damaging the city's reputation as a festival host, and you ignored them. You were warned that we could loose the Michigan Summer Beer Festival along with its 10,000 visitors and half a million dollars in economic impact and you ignored it. If you are going to make these kinds of statements, please do what you should have before you offered the motion; your research. And yes, I do advocate taxing medical marijuana. (you'll notice I'm not using any condescending quotation marks here) The lack of a tax structure is one of the may problems with Michigan's law on the issue. In pretty much every other state with medical use laws, there is a tax on the sale of medical marijuana either in place or on its way. The industry will accept such taxes in most cases. California is looking to close part of its budget gap this way, and Oakland and L.A have passed city taxes, along with others through out the country. And you are correct, we can't charge a sales tax per say, but I would be willing bet that there is a way to work around that, given the poor and vague wording of our medical law. It was technically against the law for Oakland and L.A., but no one really seems to mind. And if you said to this industry we are going to charge you a moderate tax, we are going to be sure you are following the law and our simple local regulations to the T, but otherwise, welcome home, we are open for your business we could have seen an influx of business to our community. Even if this isn't exactly what we want, it is what we need. As I said, look at Oakland, CA. That city is experiencing a renaissance that they will openly praise the medical industry for. So, yea, I would have like to have seen Ypsilanti try to do something like that, and be the first in Michigan to do it. Is that how I would like our city to create new revenue? No, but beggars on the way to state receivership can't be choosers, and that's how we would frame it to the public. I've heard you and Councilman Robb speak in joking terms about welcoming the medical industry, about turning Water Street into a medical pot farm. The basic idea there wasn't half bad. It has been said in the medical marijuana industry that Michigan, due to it's poorly worded law, is the wild west of medicinal pot. I would have liked to have seen us work it like the Comstock Lode. Again, not how I'd prefer our city to make money or be seen, but far preferable to being seen in receivership. And unlike your festival tax, it could have brought more people to the city, not taken a very real chance of driving them out. We need their money. I actually agree with Brian Robb on much of this. I think the naming regulations are a little silly. I think the spacing requirements may limit the amount of tax paying businesses we can welcome, and having a cap is just plain dumb, because we WANT more businesses. I think some of the components may be questionable on privacy grounds. However, outside of that, I think most of the ordinance, given the broad spectrum of opinion in our community, is reasonable. I just would have liked to make it work in our favor a little more. God knows we need it.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 9:46 a.m.

It's a very interesting day in Ypsilanti. The city council is poised and ready to implement their vision of what it will be like to live, work and do business in Ypsilanti. I am sure they are ready to take full responsibility for whatever the outcome to our community. But, the pretty rhetoric has to stop and the people need to get real and do their homework even if Ms. Gillotti isn't able to do so. She offered her iterpreation of the 500 ft restriction saying she felt only 3 dispensaries would fit in downtown. Google maps says something different. With the proposed restrictions you can comfortably get 3 marijuana businesses (flanked with weed signs and neon lights) on Michigan Ave, two on Cross St. and another in Depot Town. Eight is not unrealistic. There are a lot of vacant properties and compassionate people with very impressive business plans ready to make the city council heroes. It will be interesting to see if the city council is willing to "restrict" individual freesdom by requiring background checks and authorizing additional police, building inspection and family protection funds to accomodate the extra activity that 30 pretty much unregulated dispencaries bring with them. I am sure they have read the recent stories from other communities that offer a stark revelation of the numerous issues that will accompany their decision. They must have a plan. It's up to the citizens to get informed and ask they share it. Yes, it's a very interesting day in Ypsilanti.

Pete Murdock

Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : 8:58 a.m.

@AndyYpsilanti So you are perfectly willing to tax a person's "medicine" but oppose what amounts to a $1 per ticket park user fee for the Jamboree? Additionally, Michigan Cities cannot adopt a Sales Tax at all.


Thu, Dec 9, 2010 : midnight

" one will be allowed to use marijuana on the premises." I'm willing to be educated, but that sentence is key for me. It sounds like this will be more Walgreens (buy here, ingest at home) and less bar (buy here, ingest here, head home). If that's the case, I think I'm missing the controversy?


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 9:59 p.m.

Other than thinking some of the provisions of the ordinance may be hard to enforce and/or might have some privacy issues, I don't really have a problem. That said, given the community's financial situation, I would have liked to have seen much looser regulations for zoning, coupled with very strict enforcement and for god's sake a sales tax! Ask the folks in Oakland, California how that's been working for them. They praise the medical marijuana industry as one of their financial saviors! And for those that just don't want it in their city, at least we could point to the tax revenue as a justification.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:53 p.m.

I think it is legal and ought to be implemented. It is a precursor to one day totally legitimizing this law. At this stage of marijuana "coming out" from being totally banned, I do think it is in the community's best interest to place a cap on the number of businesses allowed and to stick to its legal name only-- medical marijuana. Give the city and society some time to get acclimated and not take advantage of our openness as a community.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 5:46 p.m.

@d_a2 Yes! And why is that? Could it be that there is more to a property value than the level of marijuana tolerance in an area? I was just pointing out that there are plenty of places more tolerant about marijuana than Ypsilanti with higher property values and property values that haven't gone down as marijuana tolerance has increased.


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 3:22 p.m.

Council Member Brian Robb contended that there likely wouldnt be anywhere near 35 facilities and strongly opposed a cap. We shouldnt be making policy based on fear thats not good policy,. Wake up Brian! You have already imposed a cap with the restrictions you just voted for! I only makes sense that you start slow and then increase if things are going well. So much of any cities policies are based on fear. Why have a sex offenders list? Why limit the number of liquor licenses? Why limit the location of adult book stores?


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 3:21 p.m.

@women in ypsi i'm not oppose to any of these regulations at all but comparing real estate values anywhere in California and Michigan is just unrealistic


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 2:57 p.m.

@Martin Church, the lies you should be tired of are the refer madness fear-mongering lies coming out against the legalization of marijuana from the beginning.

Come On!

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 2:55 p.m.

Mr. Church, I feel so bad for might be the only person who has seen people die under the influence of Marijuana alone. I did not know that was physically possible, but apparently that is a fear for you. It is troubling that if we let go of enforcing law strong holds on marijuana so that they might have to focus on crack or meth...


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 2:41 p.m.

How Ypsi! Leading the way out of the dark ages and willing to help its citizens.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 2:39 p.m.

I am so happy with the city council about this. This is *not* going to lower our property values. If anything, it will make things a little less friendly for the current illegal growers and dealers. They're going to be faced with some competition at least from those who use marijuana medicinally. But if you are concerned about property values, compare the property values in Humbolt, CA to those in Ypsilanti, MI. I don't think tolerance of marijuana has meant lower property values there so why should it here?


Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 2:05 p.m.

@ Martin Church If you don't like Michigan, please move to a state that suits youre needs. I suggest Texas. The people of Michigan have spoken- Love it or Leave it.

Martin Church

Wed, Dec 8, 2010 : 1:50 p.m.

So our city council is now going to legalize drug use in the city against federal law. sounds like they are working under the influence of something. 35 growers and store front operations. and will our City Police department have the authority to shutdown the illegal operations in my neighborhood. Or will I have to sacrefice my property values has the drug trade increases in the Miles st. neighborhood. i guess our property values will continue to decline and we will now have to put bars on our property similar to detroit. I have seen enough people die under the influence of drugs and I am tired of this lie being forced upon the citizens of this state by NORMAL. it is time to end the lie.