Royal Oak tightens medical marijuana regulations

ROYAL OAK — Medical marijuana patients won’t be allowed to grow their 12 state-allotted plants at their house or have a caregiver do it for them when a new local ordinance goes into effect Feb. 3.

On the heels of a moratorium on dispensaries in commercial and industrial zones, the city is stemming the tide on what a slim majority of elected officials believes could be the onset of grow houses in neighborhoods and condo and apartment complexes all over Royal Oak.

Anyone who can show they were growing medical marijuana before the ordinance goes into effect will be grandfathered in.

In a 4-3 decision early Tuesday, the City Commission voted to prohibit all enterprises contrary to federal law — possession and use of marijuana violates federal law — with two exceptions. A qualifying patient can possess or use marijuana in his or her home and a caregiver can assist the patient if he or she is connected to them through the Michigan Department of Community Health registration process.

“This allows patients who need marijuana to have it and not be criminalized but on the other hand it takes away the biggest threat to our neighborhoods by keeping grow houses out,” said City Commissioner Chuck Semchena.

He supported the change to the zoning ordinance with City Commissioners Pat Capello, Terry Drinkwine and David Poulton.

The commission finally hashed out which regulations Royal Oak would adopt at 1:05 a.m. — 5 1/2 hours after their meeting started and 3 1/2 hours after they heard from 20 residents and two attorneys, including Neil Rockind, who threatened a lawsuit.

“What you are about to do is a grave mistake,” Rockind told commissioners when he was the 18th person to offer public comment on Monday night. “You will see me again if you limit where caregivers can grow.”

The Michigan Medical Act allows a registered caregiver to grow up to 12 plants each for five qualifying patients. Rockind filed a lawsuit against Bloomfield Township for a similar ordinance to the one Royal Oak passed.

“The one difference is that Bloomfield Township requires patients to maintain a confidential registration with the township police,” Royal Oak City Attorney David Gillam said.

Rockind contends both ordinances are in conflict with the state law passed by 63 percent of Michigan voters — 72 percent in Royal Oak — in 2008.

One option not litigated anywhere in Michigan is the Royal Oak Plan Commission recommendation to allow patients or their caregivers to grow up to 12 plants at the patient’s house only, said City Commissioner Michael Andrzejak.

“It’s a fresh and different alternative,” he added.

Mayor Jim Ellison and City Commissioner Jim Rasor agreed.

“The intent is to get medical marijuana into the hands of patients,” Ellison said. “This is a hybrid to allow patients to grow for themselves or have a caregiver do it. The caveat being the caregiver can grow for five patients at five houses but not his house.”

Rasor added, “Medical marijuana is here in Royal Oak. It’s already in your neighborhoods unregulated.

Semchena said Royal Oak’s pending ordinance shows compassion to patients while addressing resident concerns about the excess of marijuana growing operations falling into young hands.

“It carves out an exception for qualifying patients to possess and use marijuana in their homes but not cultivate it,” Semchena said.

That’s not good enough for resident Adam Brook. A long-time activist to decriminalize marijuana, he is now a thyroid cancer patient. He also is planning a lawsuit.

“If you pass any ordinances that go against the state law and affect me as a medical marijuana patient I will sue you,” Brook said. “As a Royal Oak resident it kills me to have to threaten to sue the city as I know how broke we are but…we are talking about people’s health.”

Royal Oak’s city attorney said anyone growing medical marijuana before the ordinance goes into effect will be allowed to continue.

“If they can establish they were growing it before the effective date of the ordinance they can be grandfathered in,” he said.

via Daily Tribune

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