You are viewing this article in the archives. For the latest breaking news and updates in Ann Arbor and the surrounding area, see
Posted on Tue, Sep 21, 2010 : 11:25 p.m.

Ypsilanti Planning Commission to hold hearing on medical marijuana zoning ordinance

By Tom Perkins

A moratorium on new medical marijuana dispensaries went into effect in Ypsilanti last week as city officials work to develop ordinances to regulate them.

City Planner Teresa Gillotti said an ad hoc team of representatives from the police department, building department, city planner’s office, fire department, city manager’s office and city attorney met to make a recommendation to the planning commission.

Several planning commission members and city staff also visited a local grow operation, Stealth Hydro, and met with representatives from the 3rd Coast Compassion Center at 19 North Hamilton.

The city is examining how best to regulate home businesses where qualified caregivers can grow up to 72 plants for themselves and five qualified patients, which is the maximum allowed under state law.

Thumbnail image for 3rd Coast Compassion Center_2.jpg

Marijuana is shown at the 3rd Coast Compassion Center.

In July, the City Council approved a three-month emergency moratorium on new business licenses for dispensaries to give city staff time to develop regulations addressing processing, growing and distributing medical marijuana. That moratorium went into affect on Sept. 15, and all current operations were grandfathered in.

Ann Arbor recently approved a similar moratorium

Ypsilanti city officials are also determining how to regulate dispensaries and large scale grow operations, on which state law is silent.

Gillotti said the ad hoc group sought to recommend regulations that provide for easy access to medical marijuana for qualified patients, as intended by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008. But she underscored zoning ordinances and regulations must be written in a way that’s clear for all parties involved in the issue, including city staff and law enforcement.

“We have to provide as much clarity as possible for everyone involved so that there is no confusion, so that we aren’t getting into some kind of tension between law enforcement and the caregiver about what is legal, what isn't legal, when, where and how - we want the rules set up clear," she said.

Some of the main questions planning commissioners have had concern how medical marijuana is grown and how intensive it is in terms of space, energy use and ventilation.

Currently, home businesses can't occupy more than 300 feet or 25-percent of a home, but that might not be reasonable for a grow operation. Gillotti said the commission was still discussing the issue because there are so many different styles of growing with varying needs.

Among the city’s concerns for the smaller-scale home business operations are making sure they don't blur the line between a home and commercial operation in a residential zone, Gillotti said.

The planning commission likely won't allow patients to pick up medical marijuana at caregivers' homes, and Gillotti pointed out home businesses are allowed to have minimal customers who come to their residences.

“We want to respect the intent of that district,” she said.

Gillotti added many of the caregivers that city officials have spoken with said their preferred method of providing medication was delivering to the patients.

Council Member Brian Robb expressed concerns over restricting patients from picking up their medicine from caregivers’ homes.

“I’m not thrilled that you don’t want five people to come over to my house to get medicine,” he said.

Gillotti said the planning commission is considering recommending home businesses and dispensaries remain 1,000 feet from schools and dispensaries remain 500 feet from one another, though home businesses wouldn't be required to remain 500 feet apart.

Robb questioned that approach as well and said it felt like dispensaries were being treated like adult establishments, such as strip clubs or adult bookstores.

Gillotti said dispensaries wouldn't be zoned as such, but the consideration was there to prevent a proliferation of dispensaries and compassion clubs in one area.

The issue of how to regulate dispensaries has been at the center of a larger debate regionally and statewide. Ypsilanti is home to the state’s first dispensary in the 3rd Coast Compassion Center, but many argue the law isn't clear on what is and what isn't allowed.

Those in the medical marijuana industry believe recent raids on dispensaries in Ferndale will lead to court cases that could clarify confusing state law.

The planning commission will hold a second public hearing on the issue at its Oct. 20 meeting, and Gillotti said she expects a recommendation to council in November.

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


Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 4:33 p.m.

I am not a lawyer or anything but it seems kind of weird to forbid a business from operating near a church. Don't we have some kind of constitutional right regarding freedom *from* religion?


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 2:16 p.m.

@Oldrustynail, I agree with you about the standards of quality for the marijuana, but disagree that the federal government should be involved in how this is distributed. With what we have seen of recent FDA-approved drugs later proving to be dangerous, I simply don't trust the federal system to do its job. In addition, why should some senator from another area of the country have a say as to whether Michiganians have access to this drug for medical use? No, this is an issue that should be decided by states individually. Brian Robb has raised some good questions about how caregivers get this drug to their patients. As much as I like Theresa Gillotti, she seems to be rather rigidly focused on old ways that do not and should not apply to this issue. These dispensaries are not handing out marijuana to just anyone. Patients have to go through an approval process to establish their need for it. So, why the restrictions on where one can be located and how far away from a school or church they need to be? That does not make any sense at all. And, if caregivers are allowed to do this from their homes there will be even less traffic to call attention to what they are doing, because of the restrictions as to how many patients one caregiver can have. Our planning people need to get their heads out of the box and take a look at other options. One size zoning does NOT fit all.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 12:46 p.m.

I am not advocating that use of medical marijuana should be established on the federal level, only that marijuana as a recretional drug should be. I understand the concerns about large companies and effects of lobbyists on the laws and distribution, but that should be an issue debated on the national level with our elected legislators. Not claiming I know the intention of the people or awareness of the multi-uses of marijuana for medical use, I do believe the industry should be heavily regulated to prevent poor quality or marijuana mixed with chemicals that are harmful to the body going to patients.

Woman in Ypsilanti

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 11:04 a.m.

Based on what I have read in this article, I am really glad that I voted for Brain Robb in the primary. I mean really. I have more than five people come by my house in any given week just for fun. I can't imagine that anyone would even notice a home based caregiver grow operation unless they are *really* nosy and are peeping in windows or something.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 10:29 a.m.

If small scale growing and use for medicinal purposes and the development of the patient/caregiver relationship, which is what the state law is about, is taken to the federal bureaucracy which will supercede any local or state law, any federal regulation will, by way of lobbyists and lawyers paid by big business, end up serving profit driven corporations (producers and sellers) very possibly backed by organized crime. Pharmaceutical and chemical companies will lobby politicians and buy votes to keep individuals from growing their own medicine. Tobacco companies, not known for playing fair or honesty, want legalization and a new revenue stream, but only on their profit driven terms and will do everything they can to prevent patients, caregivers and users from having any rights to grow and use marijuana. Additionally, organized crime and thug criminals would prefer that nothing happen to the laws that keep marijuana illegal and they are fighting hard to obfuscate any and all efforts to legalize marijuana for medicinal and recreational use. I believe that people who advocate for federal legalization, medicinal or total, know how difficult it would be for that to happen. By advocating for a federal law that has no hpe of passing pass it will stall and/or eliminate any local or state efforts. People who speak in favor of federal legalization, medicinal or otherwise, are at best being used by corporate and criminal forces to keep patients and users from legal use. At worst, they have a vested interest in keeping pot illegal and out of the hands of individuals by any means. If "legalized" at the federal level, all the regulations will be skewed in favor of business and against the individual who wishes to grow and use an herbal medicine for their own use. You can buy your medicine at exorbitant prices at a pharmacy, but you can bet that individuals will not be allowed to grow their own! Do NOT allow any governmental entity to further restrict people's rights when it comes to growing and using a helpful medicine and benign recreational drug.


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 8:53 a.m.

- oldrustynail, I don't think you are aware of the many proven uses for medical cannibis. You leave the impression that its only for serious illness, which is really untrue. There are many medical uses some as simple as topical ointment for arthritis. My local Hospital would know nothing of the strains of cannibis and what works for what, because of the Federal prohibition. Look it up, the feds own the patent, they know the many uses.

David Briegel

Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 8:06 a.m.

oldrustynail, That was definitely NOT the intention of the people. There are so many biases against this from the established "drug pushers and dealers" that the citizens will not be served. The only abuse is the fact that it is not currently LEGAL!


Wed, Sep 22, 2010 : 7:41 a.m.

I would like to see medical marijuana dispenses only through a hospital. I am in favor of small businesses, but in this case I feel the possiblities of abuse is too great. If marijuana is to become a recreational drug, that should be established on the federal level with states having rights to amend the usage within their own territories as it is for alchohol comsumption now. If a person has a documented serious illness that the use of marijuana can ease the pain, let that person have access.