Royal Oak outlaws medical marijuana users from growing

ROYAL OAK — Royal Oak will not allow individual patients and caregivers to grow medical marijuana, but will allow card-carrying patients to smoke the drug in their home, according to an ordinance passed by the body in the early morning hours of Jan. 25.

City Commissioner Dave Poulton originally proposed extending the current moratorium for one year, but wanted to outlaw the growing of medical marijuana in neighborhoods, which led to the ordinance.

Because city officials passed a somewhat similar ordinance in September on a first reading, the passage here by a 4-3 margin gave the measure final approval. It becomes law after 10 days have passed.

The ordinance is a replica of one that had been passed by Bloomfield Township, which was sued by the American Civil Liberties Union over the measure. The city had originally passed what is described as the Livonia model, which completely outlaws medical marijuana in the city. That ordinance is also subject of litigation by the ACLU.

“I think we are going to take a lawsuit either way,” said Commissioner Patricia Capello. “I don’t want to mess around anymore.”

Capello sided with Poulton, Chuck Semchena and Terry Drinkwine in passing the ordinance. Mayor Jim Ellison and commissioners Jim Rasor and Mike Andrzejak dissented on the issue.

The passage of the ordinance ends an almost year-long discussion on the topic, which started last March when the Plan Commission recommended the City Commission approve a special zoning ordinance to allow medical marijuana facilities along the Woodward Avenue corridor.

Ultimately, the City Commission rejected that recommendation, and enacted a moratorium, which was subsequently extended, on medical marijuana facilities being approved in the city. It didn’t block individual users from growing or using marijuana in their homes, as spelled out in state law that was passed in 2008.

A second extension of the moratorium was scheduled to end Feb. 13.

Andrzejak did not want to extend the moratorium any further, but objected to the final ordinance that was passed.

“We’ll be back here one year from now, kicking the can down one more year,” he said, if another moratorium was passed.

Andrzejak and Ellison both serve on the Plan Commission, which made the first proposal and subsequent ordinance proposal that would allow an individual patient to grow marijuana in their home, and a caregiver could assist in that growing, but only in the patient’s home. The City Commission never took up discussion on that ordinance proposal.

Ellison said he was concerned the issue would land in court, and they would lose.

“If we end up in court and lose, not only are we going to have to pay that person, but they’ll get their way too,” Ellison said. “The court will decide how we should handle this, and not us.”

Semchena said it was his intent that he didn’t want to see any house, condominium or apartment in the city become a grow facility for medical marijuana.

“I don’t think state law forces us to allow it,” he said.

The long discussion on medical marijuana was mostly calm and civil, but there was an outburst from the audience as Semchena was discussing the volume of medical marijuana that could be produced by one plant.

“That’s preposterous,” a member of the audience shouted, calling Semchena’s description a “mischaracterization.” When Ellison threatened to have the man thrown out of the meeting, he left voluntarily.

There were supporters on both sides of the issue, including many civic leaders who were pushing for a similar solution that was ultimately passed.

Gary Briggs, a member of the Save Our Youth Task Force and the Royal Oak Neighborhood Schools Board of Education president, said there were too many unanswered questions about the law.

“They need to be answered in the court of law,” he said.

A small number of patients spoke about the drug, and two attorneys also cautioned the city on their move.

Attorney Neil Rockind said the ordinance was a “grave mistake” and the city would be sued on the issue.

“You will see me again if you limit where caregivers grow,” Rockind said. “It’s an important time for this progressive city to be progressive, and not reactionary.”

Former City Commission member Laura Harrison asked the body to go to the voters for an answer.

“It’s such an important thing, I don’t think it’s something we should rush into because we’ll regret it,” she said.

via C&G News

 

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