By ZEINAB NAJM
HEIGHTS — The city is in the process of determining if it wants to opt-in the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act allowing the regulation of medical marijuana in the city.
Under the act passed by state Legislature in 2016, cities could adopt an ordinance where they decide the type of licenses allowed in the city, how many medical marijuana facilities they want in the city, where they would be located, the spacing requirements and zoning areas with the facilities.
The five types of license facilities include grower, processor, transporter, provisioning center and safety compliance facility.
According the to the act its purpose is “to license and regulate medical marijuana growers, processors, provisioning centers, secure transporters, and safety compliance facilities; to provide for the powers and duties of certain state and local governmental officers and entities; to create a medical marijuana licensing board; to provide for interaction with the statewide monitoring system for commercial marijuana transactions; to create an advisory panel; to provide immunity from prosecution for marihuana-related offenses for persons engaging in marijuana-related activities in compliance with this act; to prescribe civil fines and sanctions and provide remedies; to provide for forfeiture of contraband; to provide for taxes, fees, and assessments; and to require the promulgation of rules.”
The city council held a study session Aug. 29 to get more information and input about adopting a possible ordinance.
Currently, there are no rules or regulations in the city, and caregivers provide patients with medical marijuana grown out of their houses.
A caregiver can grow up to 12 plants for each of their five allowed patients which could see a shift if dispensaries are allowed and produce better medical marijuana.
If a new ordinance is passed, filter and alarm requirements for caregivers will be addressed.
During the meeting, Councilman Robert Constan read a letter written by Dearborn Heights District 7 Supt. Jennifer Mast opposing the ordinance.
Police Chief Lee Gavin said he has met with the FBI where a presentation was given about the ordinance and MMFLA. Gavin said he is against the medical marijuana dispensaries because marijuana is still considered a controlled substance.
However, there are restrictions in the act on how law enforcement and attorneys can prosecute medical marijuana patients and facilities giving them immunity.
At the study session, residents had the opportunity to speak about the possible ordinance. They also spoke for and against medical marijuana dispensaries.
Those in favor cited:
• Having regulated medical marijuana in the city so trips to Detroit and Ann Arbor won’t have to be made due to safety and travel time.
• Quality medical marijuana for patients who need the treatment for serious illnesses.
• Income for the city.
• Economic development including the creation of jobs.
• Control on how many facilities exist in the city legally.
Residents said they are traveling to Detroit or Ann Arbor for their medical marijuana, but are taking a risk doing so because the dispensaries are not yet legal and the marijuana could be tainted.
Resident Thomas Vick told the council that synthetic drugs including the opioid epidemic taking place across the country is what kills people, not medical marijuana.
“People with illnesses would have to take a number of drugs just to get relief from their pain, but medical marijuana is a more reasonable option for a cure. The plant hasn’t killed anyone.”
Residents against the MMFLA in the city were concerned about enforcing the new ordinance, who would respond to facilities if an incident takes place, cost convince, location selections and the tracking of who has a medical marijuana card at the state level.
Debra Brown-England asked the council to take its time making a decision.
“I’m worried about the police department staffing because there is not enough police officers staffed to regulate the new medical marijuana facilities,” she said.
State Sen. David Knezek (D-Dearborn Heights) hosted an informational medical marijuana town hall meeting on Aug. 31 for residents and elected officials.
City council members and Mayor Daniel Paletko were in attendance to get more information on the MMFLA before making any decision.
National Patients Rights Association Executive Director Robin Schneider, Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs Director Shelly Edgerton and Doug Mains of the State Bar of Michigan Marijuana Law Section, respectively, answered questions about the law, regulatory and licensing and patient care access.
Mains said the lack of rules stems from 2008 when voters passed the medical marijuana act with a 63 percent vote, but no regulations were set.
Edgerton told the audience that applications for the five licensing areas are still being created and could have them available online as well as in person in Lansing.
IT training for those interested will be accessible across the state through a road show to help people with new systems for providers and sales under the MMFLA.
Schneider said under the MMFLA, medical marijuana given to patients will be available in forms including edibles, pills and liquids. She also mentioned that the main intent is to safely get all forms of medical marijuana tested, packaged and labeled correctly for patients and provide security.
Questions asked by the audience addressed the possible change for caregivers, fate for current dispensaries, apartment rules, police enforcement and access to medical marijuana by children by family members.
Schneider said under the MMFLA caregivers cannot hold a commercial license and caregiver license at the same time, will be able to transfer a small amount of medical marijuana to testing centers, must have labels for transport and handwritten log with detailed patient information and can produce all types of medical marijuana.
Regarding current dispensaries, Edgerton said the department is working with the attorney general on a plan and should give an update during a Sept. 12 board meeting.
Councilman Ray Muscat asked if the state would provide policing for the medical marijuana dispensaries and state testing on the marijuana because the MMFLA is state legislature.
Councilman Ray Muscat asked that because the MMFLA is a law passed by the state, would it be responsible for providing policing for the medical marijuana dispensaries and state testing on the medical marijuana.
“We will have a laundry list of standards testers will have to meet working at the local level because the state will not be conducing the testing, but we will making inspection visits where we test random samples,” Edgerton said. “For the local police enforcement during possible fights or issues at the dispensary locations they should be addressed under the ordinance just like other businesses because state police will not be able to respond to every call.”
D7 Trustee Lori Fujita voiced her concern about children in the district at schools smelling like marijuana because they have access to medical marijuana through family members.
Edgerton said the education and public health departments are working to study childproof packaging and shapes of edibles that could attract children.
“The departments have a list with items they have to address and are aware of the impact on schools, children and families,” she said.
Also, Schneider said communities need to work together to ensure children are drug free and parents know with whom and where there children are at all times, including neighbor’s houses.
A decision has to be made by the council on if its wants to opt-in or opt-out by Dec. 15, the same day the state will begin taking applications for the five licenses.
For more information on the MMFLA 281 go to www.legislature.mi.gov.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected].)