Oakland County Continues To Have Hard Time Figuring Out Medical Marijuana

Here’s a pretty comprehensive story about medical marijuana in Oakland County from the oaklandpress.com

The medical marijuana debate continues to be a burning issue in Oakland County.

While several states allow medical marijuana, only a handful of municipalities in Oakland County have enacted ordinances, either allowing or banning the use of the controversial substance.

The law has created confusion on the part of lawmakers, patients and even law enforcement. Many are waiting for court decisions to set the standard.

Click here to see the first story in the series.

While Commerce Township regulates medical marijuana from a land use and zoning basis only, residents must fill out an application and be approved.

Kathleen Jackson, planning director for Commerce Township, said there have been one to two inquires each week.

If approved, the planning department sends copies to the Oakland County Sheriff’s Department substation in Commerce.

Click here to see the second story in the series.

According to the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, Section 6.G, “Possession of, or application for, a registry identification card shall not constitute probable cause or reasonable suspicion, nor shall it be used to support the search of the person or property of the person possessing or applying for the registry identification card, or otherwise subject the person or property of the person to inspection by any local, county or state governmental agency,” in regards to the Michigan Department of Community Health. It does not specify other agencies or municipalities disseminating private medical information.

Lt. Clay Jansson at the Commerce Substation, receives copies of the approved medial marijuana uses by Commerce’s Planning Department.

“I keep a file on those facilities,” he said. “I’ve done inspections on three of the six.”

Clay said all of the facilities have been up to code, and added that he has not been met with any resistance from the residents. He would not comment whether the sheriff’s department was breaching the Medical Marihuana Act by conducting inspections.

“The township of Commerce chose to go down a path of a hands off approach,” Clay said. “The facilities need to be in a location that meets with Commerce Township’s zoned area. The facilities that I’ve personally inspected, the people are very up front. I’ve had no push back from the facilities.”

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said he was unaware that the substation was using this protocol.

Sheriff Michael Bouchard said there is a difference between protecting private medical records and manufacturing drugs, noting that law enforcement can inspect any pharmacy.

“It’s important for us to verify these things,” he added, “Any type of grow operation is a target for armed robbery and murder.”

Attorney Jon Kingsepp represents the city of Clawson. Unlike many municipalities, Clawson never installed a moratorium.

“We don’t believe in the moratorium approach, so we never adopted one,” he said. “This is a controversy the legislature has not bothered to handle.”

There are several court cases in Oakland County that may set a precedent, which Kingsepp said could be problematic.

“Judges, while they are great, are notoriously bad legislatures,” he said with a laugh.

In the meantime, municipalities have had to hash out the details.

Instead of taking the wait-and-see approach, the planning commission is developing a standard for businesses to file for special use exceptions.

Once the standards are developed, they will be reviewed by the council for adoption. If accepted, the earliest it would go into effect would be the end of April or early May, he said.

Other cities, including Ferndale, have specific guidelines, including dispensary locations.

Facilities cannot be allowed within 500 feet of an educational facility, nursery school or child-care center or another medical marijuana facility or grow operation, according to the ordinance.

The dispensaries are also subject to city inspection to ensure that it is in compliance with the state and city law.

In Auburn Hills, the city defers to the federal law — the Controlled Substances Act — which bans any use of marijuana.

“We just can’t breach either state or federal law,” said Peter Auger, supervisor.

He, like many officials, said the law is vague and creates issues for municipalities.

“That’s a big challenge for referendum government. People vote for laws and there aren’t clear guidelines on what is allowed.”

Birmingham follows the same logic.

“It shall be unlawful for any person or business to engage in any activity, conduct, use or venture in the City that is contrary to federal, state or local laws or ordinances, including violations of this Code or the City of Birmingham Zoning Ordinance, and any statutes and codes adopted or utilized by the City,” according to the ordinance.

While the debate on federal preemption — the federal law overriding the state law — has not been resolved, some cities have taken it upon themselves to create detailed ordinances allowing medical marijuana.

As communities work out ordinance details, the Legislature is also attempting to bring clarity to the issue.

“This is obviously a contentious issue,” said Samantha Harkins, Legislative associate with the Michigan Municipal League. “It’s still an uphill battle because the Michigan Marihuana Act was a voter initiative.”

To make any changes to the law would require a 75 percent majority vote in the Legislature. The last time the Legislature met to discuss the issue with vested parties took place in January, she said.

“Our communities are both frustrated and concerned — frustration is rampant.”

Harkins said the law has created difficulties for all parties: Patients and caregivers, law enforcement and municipalities. In the case of law enforcement, she said it is difficult because the law does not allow agencies information on who is allowed to use medical marijuana. In those instances, she said police officials may end up proceeding with a search and seizure not knowing that the use was legal under the Medical Marihuana Act.

“It’s been very difficult for law enforcement to deal with it.”

She also noted that the Legislature is wary of changing the intent of the law.

While she said it is an important issue, she also noted other pressing issues the state is dealing with, including the recent Emergency Financial Manager protests that have swamped the capitol.

“I don’t feel like we’ve made any progress,” she said.

While the Legislature will continue to work on the issue, she noted that the results from the several ongoing court cases may solve the problem for everyone.

“The Legislature doesn’t have to change it. (The court’s decision) will have the effect of law.”



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