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Twp. gets ball rolling on medical marijuana ordinace

June 16, 2010 - Oxford Township's looking into possibly amending its zoning ordinance to include businesses and other establishments related to medical marijuana.

No decisions have been made as to whether such language would be to prohibit them or simply regulate them.

Last week, officials voted 7-0 to direct the planning commission and its ordinance review subcommittee to review the current township zoning ordinance and propose an update relative to medical marijuana by the July 14 township board meeting.

"We're basically getting the ball rolling to develop an ordinance because Oxford Township doesn't have one," said township Trustee Mike Spisz.

The ordinance review subcommittee will discuss the topic at its 6 p.m. Thursday, June 17 meeting to be held at Oxford Fire Station #1 (96 N. Washington St.). The meeting is open to the public.

"They're going to sit and go through our current ordinance, review some of the other area ordinances, then starting having discussions (as to) what they're going to propose to the planning commission and to this board for adoption," Spisz explained. "That's where all the real work will be done."

"We'll get their recommendation and we'll give them feedback," noted township Supervisor Bill Dunn.

Planning Commission Chairman Todd Bell told this reporter the scope of the discussion is going to be quite broad and encompass the following: 1) businesses that sell medical marijuana to patients (commonly called dispensaries); 2) shops that sell smoking paraphernalia and hydroponic supplies to grow marijuana plants; and 3) places where users can meet to smoke or otherwise ingest medical marijuana.

Dunn noted he recently had inquiries from four individuals about the possibility of establishing medical marijuana dispensaries in Oxford. "Right now, I don't have any specifics to tell them other than they can go through the normal planning process just like anyone else," he told this reporter.

In November 2008, Michigan voters approved the legal possession and use of medical marijuana by those who qualify and register with the state.

According to the Michigan Department of Community Health website, a patient or their designated primary caregiver – both of whom must be registered with the state – may grow marijuana as a result of the law, however, "there is no place in the state of Michigan to legally purchase medical marihuana."

Doctors cannot prescribe marijuana because the federal government classifies it as a Schedule 1 drug. A physician can only recommend the use of medical marijuana and provide written certification of a debilitating medical condition that would be alleviated by its use.

Orion resident Joe Palermo, a caregiver, indicated he and others would like to work with communities and law enforcement agencies as they create such local ordinances, "so there's no question about what's going on, who's doing what, what they're doing and how they're conducting themselves."

"I'd be willing to bet that we probably have a lot more in common than you think about where we want to go with this," he said. "What we don't want to have is the whole movement tarred by people who choose to go outside the law and cause problems."

"I think that's one reason we want to make the ordinance clear," Spisz noted.

Palermo urged township officials to talk to their constituents and medical marijuana users, and research the issue before making any decisions.

"I would request that you all put what you think you know about medical marijuana aside for a minute," he said. "If you actually saw it firsthand, you'd have a better idea of what it's really about."

"I think we should all come to this with an open mind," Palermo noted.

This wasn't the first time the township board's discussed the medical marijuana issue.

Back in April, officials took no action regarding a proposed zoning ordinance amendment that would have effectively banned medical marijuana dispensaries by prohibiting uses for enterprises or purposes contrary to federal, state or local laws.

The language was taken from an ordinance adopted by the City of Livonia in Fall 2009 and passed on to Oxford via a letter from Oakland County Sheriff Michael Bouchard.

"Under existing federal law, use of marijuana for any reason is not lawful. There is no exception for medical marijuana," Bouchard wrote.

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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