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Medical marijuana on hold in village

One year moratorium imposed

September 15, 2010 - Ortonville- A cloud of uncertainty still hangs over medical marijuana nearly two years after Michigan voters approved legalization of the drug for patients in need of pain relief.

The village council wants the air to clear before making any decisions on ordinances regulating medical marijuana here.

In the village, patients will have to wait at least one more year to learn whether they may one day be able to obtain the drug locally through legal avenues.

The village council voted 6-1 at their Sept. 13 meeting to adopt a resolution establishing a 1-year moratorium against issuing any permits or licenses for production, sale or distribution of medical marijuana. Council President Ken Quisenberry voted no.

"There is so much going on, we want to wait and see how the dust settles so we can write a proper ordinance with all the information," said Councilmember Kay Green. "A lot of people have created ordinances, but they are being tested in court now. Rather than do it wrong, we want an informed decision."

Last month, police raided two Waterford Township businesses and a Ferndale clinic for alleged violations of state medical marijuana law. According to reports, a total of 17 people were arraigned in Oakland County courts on various marijuana charges as the result of the two medical marijuana dispensary busts.

On Nov. 4, 2008, Michigan voters approved by 63 percent the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act. The law went into effect Dec. 4, 2008. The conditions for the law include treatment of debilitating medical conditions such as cancer, glaucoma, HIV, AIDS, hepatitis C, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease), Crohn's disease, agitation of Alzheimer's disease, nail patella, cachexia or wasting syndrome, severe and chronic pain, severe nausea, seizures, epilepsy, muscle spasms, and multiple sclerosis. There are 14 states that allow medical marijuana.

Village Manager Larry Brown said the planning commission recommended the moratorium resolution to the council.

"The village has had two inquiries regarding our regulation of medical marijuana," Brown noted. "It was more exploratory than wanting to set up shop. Right now is a confusing time for medical marijuana and some municipalities have agreed to allow medical marijuana by their ordinances and they've been raided. Rather than have our village tied up in that, it's better to wait and let it be figured out at the state and county level."

Quisenberry said it will be resolved by the legislature, a high court ruling or attorney general opinion and it was for that reason that he voted no on the moratorium.

"This is a moot point," he said. "There will be challenges in court and then rulings and guidelines governing medical marijuana. It's going to become well-defined and once it does, that is the time to address ordinances."

Quisenberry noted that two planning commission meetings have been held to discuss the issue, costing the village money. Without the moratorium, he said anyone who wanted to operate a medical marijuana dispensary in the community would still have to request permission and the council could still deny the request.

"The moratorium is spineless," Quisenberry said. "It's like discouraging it without taking a position, either for or against. Short of getting clarity on the law, I'm not in a position to answer whether I would say yes or no to someone requesting permission for a dispensary. It's incumbent on clarity in the statute."

The resolution states that at the end of the 12-month moratorium the legal climate will be reviewed to determine if there is sufficient clarification of the medical marijuana law to make a sound decision in furtherance of the best interests of the community.

In placing a moratorium on the issue, the village council joins other municipalities that have done the same— including Atlas Township, where last spring the planning commission put on hold land use for the marijuana dispensaries until this fall. The commission was planning to begin on Wednesday deliberations on an ordinance.

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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