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Posted on Tue, May 3, 2011 : 1:52 p.m.

Ann Arbor officials decide against making medical marijuana cultivation facilities apply for licenses

By Ryan J. Stanton


Medical marijuana dispensary owner Chuck Ream holds a sign calling for the firing of Ann Arbor City Attorney Stephen Postema outside city hall last month. Ream has been at odds with Postema over the details of the city's pending medical marijuana ordinances.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Ann Arbor City Council members have decided they no longer want to have licensing regulations for medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

The city still could regulate where cultivation facilities — places where medical pot is grown other than a home — can be located through the city's zoning ordinance. And licensing rules still would apply to dispensaries, the places where pot is sold.

But the council voted Monday night at the request of Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward, to remove any reference to cultivation facilities from a proposed licensing ordinance.

Council members engaged in another long discussion on the topic of medical marijuana Monday night and made a number of amendments to both the licensing and zoning ordinances that have been under consideration for several months. They ultimately decided to postpone further consideration of the ordinances until their first meeting in June.

Council Member Stephen Kunselman, D-3rd Ward, expressed concerns about letting cultivation facilities go unregulated from a licensing standpoint.


Ann Arbor resident Tony Keene, shown here working in his medical marijuana cultivation facility, no longer would need a license from the city under council-approved changes to a proposed ordinance Monday night.

Ryan J. Stanton |

Before the changes made Monday night, the proposed licensing ordinance capped the number of dispensary licenses at 20 and cultivation facility licenses at 10. The limit on the number of dispensaries allowed remains the same, but there's no longer any cap on cultivation facilities.

That was a tough call, Kunselman said.

"There's a number of things we have to be concerned about," he said. "Will we have a proliferation of cultivation facilities that are unlicensed running in our commercial and research enterprise zones? I guess we'll have to cross that bridge if it comes to us."

Despite his concerns, Kunselman said he still wants to have less regulation when it comes to medical marijuana, and he certainly doesn't want to be gathering information on caregivers that could end up in the hands of the federal government. So removing the requirement that cultivation facility owners must apply for licenses makes sense from that standpoint, he said.

Briere said she wanted to level the playing field for caregivers and not require fees and a city licensing process just because some of them want to grow someplace other than their home.

Those who grow in their homes aren't subject to to such restrictions, and Briere thought having stricter regulations on cultivation facilities would just encourage more grow operations to take flight in residential neighborhoods to avoid bureaucratic red tape.

"It became difficult for me to justify treating somebody differently because they were growing marijuana outside their home," she said. "As long as they're growing within the rules of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, they're restricted, so the same rules apply to everybody."

The council also took action Monday night to amend the zoning ordinance to put a 72-plant limit on the amount of marijuana that can be grown in a cultivation facility in Ann Arbor.

The 72-plant limit, already in place for home occupations under the zoning ordinance, comes from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which allows registered caregivers to grow 12 plants per patient. Caregivers can grow for five patients and themselves under law.

Without adding clarification to the city's zoning ordinance, city officials said it might have been possible for multiple caregivers to grow marijuana together — possibly through a co-op structure — and have more than 72 plants under one roof. Council members expressed concerns about having such mega-grow operations in the city, with some saying it could invite the unwanted interest of federal drug enforcement officials.

  • Click here to download the latest version of the zoning ordinance.

  • Click here to download the latest version of the licensing ordinance.

Briere said she considers the zoning ordinance basically complete. One of the main issues that remains to be decided is whether a 1,000-foot perimeter around schools is needed.


City Council Member Sabra Briere, D-1st Ward.

Ryan J. Stanton |

The council made a number of other amendments to the zoning ordinance Monday night that Briere characterized as "a lot of nit-picky little changes." She said she wanted to remove any question that medical marijuana business owners were being singled out by the city.

"Part of what we did was make certain it was clear that the restrictions on caregivers — whether they were operating a cultivation facility or a home occupation — were the same restrictions that any other business or home occupation would face, so it wasn't a matter of singling out somebody," she said. "It's just the cost of being part of Ann Arbor."

Dispensary owner Chuck Ream, a leading voice in the medical marijuana movement in Ann Arbor, urged council members to make the restrictions as minimal as possible.

"Caregivers are already fully regulated under the state law that 79 percent of our voters approved of," he said, adding the city needs to be careful not to create a paper trail and give the feds "a list of juicy targets full of confidential information."

"Please respect the state law regarding confidentiality," he said. "You hold the lives of good people in your hands."

City Attorney Stephen Postema said some local regulation is necessary due to the vagueness of the state law on medical marijuana.

"The law deals with caregivers growing," he said. "It doesn't deal with where they're growing and other regulations that would usually be left to zoning or to the city. And therefore, as many people have said, the law is vague on this, so reasonable people can disagree on this."

Ryan J. Stanton covers government and politics for Reach him at or 734-623-2529. You also can follow him on Twitter or subscribe to's e-mail newsletters.


David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:35 a.m.

Hey Mike, It sounds to me like you are describing most campus bars and downtown nightclubs. And Michigan Stadium on a football tailgate Saturday. What's your point? And maybe, just maybe Ann Arbor will become the sanity capital of America.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

I'm not sure who's going to want to raise a family in this town. I know of people who have businesses next door to these establishments and it is attracting some seedy characters and hurting their business. But at least we're being compassionate to those in need. By the way did you get your card yet? Go on Craigs List and get one, it's easy, and it will cure your headache and maybe even your backache, come to think of it there's not much it won't cure except the deterioration of our society.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:06 p.m.

Well it looks loke Ann arbor is FINALLY going to get to be the pot cultivating capital of the USA. Congratulations to all of the people fighting for compassionate care of those in need. And to top it off you can add whatever special ingredients to it to make it even more medicinal. Good for all of you who fought so hard for this!


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:52 p.m.

So the city council wants to eliminate licensing regulations for marijuana cultivation facilities. There is a fear that there will be a "proliferation of cultivation facilities that are unlicensed" as was noted by a council member. That is exactly what was observed in California where they even had more regulation than what is being considered in Ann Arbor. Large scale growing operations sprang up in residential areas. This created large headaches for residents and law enforcement of some cities. I am concerned that the council is going to inadvertently create an environment in AA that will promote illegal large scale cultivation facilities. The state of MI in general and AA in particular is trying to create a "pot friendly" culture that is supposed to happily co-exist with the residents. This is only going to foster an environment that will attract drug gangs, growers and other unsavory types. From a risk/reward perspective there is a lot of money to be made by growing weed and selling it on the black market. AA is situated near Detroit and is close to Chicago a pretty good distribution point. Canada is not that far away either. There doesn't seem to be much motivation to regulate/ prosecute growing in MI and there are lots of cheap houses and buildings to do it in. The city doesn't have the law enforcement capabilities to handle an influx of growers and the State Police will probably not involve themselves with city. This is a good opportunity for some folks to make some big money. The only downside is that other people will try to steal it from them as we have seen in downtown AA. The growers will need to arm themselves and of course gun battles will occur from time to time. This is probably a similar environment that has lead to the drug wars in Mexico. The city council seems very concerned about protecting the rights of growers and less so about the general welfare of the population. The council needs to think this through more

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:30 a.m.

Prohibition is what makes the general population less safe. Look at where American dollars fund the "War" in Mexico.


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:13 p.m.

I think you left out the part where it leads to nuclear war.

Andrew Shafer

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 4:08 p.m.

This is great to see, although I am disappointed at how uneducated some people can be on the medical marijuana community, and even the recreation community. Take your time that we are people just like anyone else. Back in the 30's when Reefer Madness came out, everyone thought it would make you go nuts. Couldn't it be they were trying to scare you/me?

Steve Hendel

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:08 p.m.

Why not just admit that the 'medical' in 'medical marijuana' is largely ( not totally) a front for out and out drug dealing? What else could it be when one dispensary, in advertising for a doctor, cited $2,500 PER DAY as what they could make writing prescriptions?


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:36 p.m.

That's just great. Anyone can start growing marijuana in their home, claim it is for medicinal use, and do what they want with it afterwards. Let's just take society down another notch. Everyone can get high. We need to get closer to the bottom.

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:28 a.m.

That would be sane, rational and civilized. Not that you'd notice.

Red Barber

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 12:59 p.m.

You know, the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy.

Wolf's Bane

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Well, time to switch jobs. If it is that easy to grow pot, then count me in.

Peter Jameson

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 6:08 a.m.

Progressives outlawed marijuana in the early 1900's, yet progressives today want it legalized. Will there ever be an end? They should have been legal this whole time. FREEDOM WILL PREVAIL! Don't let the moral crusaders win!

David Briegel

Thu, May 5, 2011 : 1:27 a.m.

Many of us wish you were correct and that sanity would prevail! There is nothing "moral" about Prohibition. Nothing!


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:38 a.m.

I don't want marijuana smoke stinking up our town! It smells bad! It's a public nuisance and causes health problems, including negative neurological effects. If it's the only effective pain control drug for some people: let them get pills or injections like everyone else. A firearms dealer license costs quite a bit and part of the licensing requirement is meeting the security requirements for the guns in the dealer's inventory. What about the security needed to keep the dealers' marijuana out of the hands of burglars? A lot of parents in Ann Arbor should worry about stolen marijuana showing up in school yards. Mr. Joad has another point: what about the energy cost and the need for proper electrical systems (and water systems)? Yeah, city council has a big bridge straight ahead of them; lets see that they cross that bridge properly with proper attention to these "details."

5c0++ H4d13y

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 2:41 a.m.

Isn't a cultivation facility basically a drug company? No regulation of that?


Wed, May 4, 2011 : 5:10 p.m.

Well, seeing that tobacco products are regulated as a vegetable and not a drug, there's not too much hypocrisy in this approach.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 9:23 p.m.

"with some saying it could invite the unwanted interest of federal drug enforcement officials." Heavens to bitsy they should do their job. FYI to all you MM card holders, the Feds and the State are apparently in a big tiff about giving up information about the card holders. Wanted or unwanted, the DEA is taking an interest in this already. and for anyone crying foul, the Feds and the State already have access to your prescription drug history through the MAPS program. And before you throw stones, I support either decriminalization or legalization. If the govenemnt is making money off of the comparables, they might as well make some money off of this.

Red Barber

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 1:03 p.m.

There's no prescription involved here, though. And the right to privacy is clearly enumerated in the bill.

John A2

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 9:19 p.m.

That's what I consider lots of free money for cultivators. If your a provider, you give a free ounce to the ones you provide for. The money you make off selling it covers the costs of growing it and allows for a little profit at the end. Cultivators should have to donate one cured ounce per twelve plants to certified individuals who don't have a caregiver. This will balance out better than free marketed non-licensed producers, and make it work out for the people who find it hard to get a caregiver. I for one know care givers are racist when choosing who they will provide for, because the providers name and address is on the back of the MMMP card. This information is dangerous in the wrong hands because it potentially makes them a target to be robbed. There are a lot of people who need caregivers, and cultivators can fulfill their needs. Cultivators can turn in their flowered buds to a distributor and make them distribute the free bud to people who are caregiver free and are not growers or providing for themselves. I am sure they know who they are because they have a steady flow of members. I can't fine tune it , but someone can do this and make it work out for all. Thanks for reading John A2

Elaine F. Owsley

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Well, no point in having a Hash Bash on the Diag. Just have the kids go off to the Community Marijuana Farms and pick up their supply from the friendly growers. Why have any rules at all if you are going to remove all the teeth.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 9:03 p.m.

Why would we want to regulate drug production or distribution?


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 8:13 p.m.

I don't know if the new regulations exclude cultivators growing near schools or churches but it should regulate these.

G. Orwell

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 7:57 p.m.

The state of Michigan should allow the growing and harvesting of industrial hemp. This is a miracle cash crop that can be used for food, clothing, medicine and fuel. No herbicides or pesticides needed and this would replace most of the toxic chemicals used to produce fuel, plastics and other artificial materials. Only reason why it is banned is because the chemical and pharmaceutical industries do not want competition. It is not marijuana and there no reason why we cannot grow this crop. Canada is allowed to grow it, why can't we???? Politics and greed.


Tue, May 3, 2011 : 7:02 p.m.

Humorous quote from this article (compliments of Stephen Kunselman): "Will we have a proliferation of cultivation facilities that are unlicensed running in our commercial and research enterprise zones? I guess we'll have to cross that bridge if it comes to us."

Wolf's Bane

Wed, May 4, 2011 : 11:43 a.m.

Don't Bogart that joint, my friend!

Tom Joad

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 6:52 p.m.

The city should boost code enforcement. Any grow facility worth its salt will have multiple 1000 watt lights taxing a home's electric power supply. The risk of an electrical fire is real. What if a grower bypasses the meter and steals electricity? 12 plants per patient? Who needs this much dope? Obviously much of it will be sold to recoup the investment in setting up the grow operation and paying the high utility bills.

John A2

Tue, May 3, 2011 : 9:46 p.m.

Is that wrong to do? There is no money in this state and we have the highest unemployment in the country. I think it's a path to the road to recovery financially. We need this income period. Are you going to give money or put people to work for they can feed their family's, probably not, so put your money where your mouth is. Think about it before you speak on it. I think it's a great thing, and all for getting more money generating in this state. Who needs that much dope? Not your business, it's the state limit and thats the law. If someone is stealing they will be prosecuted just as law breakers do. The electricity problem is a problem though. All growers should have to have a licensed electrician install new proper breaker box just for the grow rooms. It's not just the lights, but electric equipment also includes fans, evaporators, pumps, and potentially more. This is a major concern and should be a fire code for all growers. Have all growers get an inspection of there electrical conditions and the ones who don't pass make them update their systems.