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Council directs PC to draft ordinance regulating med. marijuana facilities

September 15, 2010 - For the time being, regulation has won out over prohibition in the Village of Oxford.

On Tuesday night, the village council voted 4-1 to direct its planning commission to write an ordinance that regulates the growth, distribution and sales of medical marijuana.

"Personally, I would rather regulate it because if you don't regulate it, there's a chance for a lawsuit and there's also a chance for a black market," said Councilman Tom Benner. "For the people that need it medically, I think we need to look (out) for them."

"This is a very delicate situation," Benner said. "For a person that is in need of the medical marijuana for pain, it's very much a necessity."

Councilman Dave Bailey noted the approved motion "does not necessarily indicate that this council favors the adoption of such an ordinance."

"All it means is we want somebody to print some words onto their hard drive. That's all it means," he said. "This council will not decide what position we're taking this day. All we're asking is for a document to be prepared."

Council also voted 5-0 to schedule a joint – no pun intended – meeting between the village and township planning commissions to discuss the regulation of medical marijuana facilities.

Back in July, the township board voted 5-2 to direct its planning commission and ordinance review subcommittee to write ordinance language that regulates the dispensing of medical marijuana.

Council's motions were the result of a request for direction made by the planning commission, which held a public input session on the subject last week (see story on Page 8).

Councilman Tony Albensi cast the lone dissenting vote on the first motion not because he opposes medical marijuana, but because he's unclear if the state law allows for dispensaries to distribute and/or sell the drug.

"I'm for medicinal marijuana, however, I do have some concerns about dispensaries," he said. "My concerns are simply because I don't know, as a lay person, if (dispensaries) are part of the statute or not. Some people say they're not. Some people say they are. That's a concern of mine. If they are, fine, then maybe we could regulate it. If they aren't, then that is what it is."

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act approved by state voters in 2008 is silent on the issue of dispensaries.

Benner shared Albensi's concern about dispensaries and noted he also has "a concern about who grows it."

"I would rather see it disbursed through a pharmaceutical company and grown somewhere that can be regulated very easily," Benner said. "But I think the federal government and the state are stepping back and saying, 'We don't want nothing to do with this.'"

Albensi liked the fact that the City of Royal Oak is asking their officials to write letters to state legislators to have them look at this issue. "I firmly believe the state Legislature needs to fine tune the legislation, clarify some things that the voters passed," he said.

Bailey pointed out that what Albensi wants could be "very difficult" because in order to amend this citizen-initiated law without another vote of the people, the state constitution requires a three-quarters majority vote in both the state House and Senate.

"The ball's in our court. Lansing ain't going to bail us out, not without three-quarters of both houses," he said.

"That doesn't mean it can't be done," Albensi retorted.

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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