Hills Council Halts Medical Marijuana Ordinance
Officials want a closer look at a pot ordinance passed in Grand Rapids.
Farmington Hills officials may end up going back to the drawing board with an ordinance that would have effectively prohibited medical marijuana-related businesses in town.
The problem, said council member Barry Brickner, is that while officials want to target large growing operations, the ordinance also will affect caregivers, who are allowed under state law to grow a larger number of marijuana plants for more than one patient.
City council members voted unanimously Monday to table the ordinance amendment, which bans land uses that violate any federal, state or local ordinance or law. Before the vote, Farmington Hills attorney Thomas Loeb threatened to sue if the amendment passed.
Loeb was one of two residents who urged officials not to pass the ordinance, drafted in response to apparent conflicts between the state's new Medical Marijuana Act and federal laws that make marijuana use and possession a crime.
"Your ordinance is very poorly written," Loeb said. "I am already suing Bloomfield Township for their terrible ordinance."
While officials were within their rights to prohibit "storefront" types of medical marijuana businesses, he said, they could not prevent people from being caregivers.
David Haron, who spent 14 years on the Hills Planning Commission, said he "consistently objected" to any ordinance that espoused moral or philosophical beliefs.
After reading portions of the Medical Marijuana Act, including a list of diseases and conditions for which medical marijuana can be used, he said, "This act is dealing with the relief of pain and symptoms of those diseases. It's not dealing with the peddling of drugs to children."
With regard to concerns about federal law, Haron said most marijuana arrests are made under state law, and President Barack Obama has issued a written directive that would prevent federal interference with state medical marijuana laws.
"What we're doing is putting people who need help in danger of being arrested," he said.
Council member Barry Brickner, who has objected to the ordinance since its introduction, said the state law specifically protects any caregiver from being arrested or facing any penalty or being denied any rights, including civil penalties.
"We have a portion of the statute that says the city can't give a penalty," he said. "My question is, why are we passing an ordinance if we can't enforce it?"
Mayor Jerry Ellis suggested looking at an ordinance passed by Grand Rapids, which requires caregivers to obtain a city permit and operate within certain guidelines. He asked whether the council could table the draft ordinance, which had already passed the first reading, and bring it back, perhaps with changes.
City attorney Steve Joppich said that if revisions are extensive, officials may have to send the ordinance back to the Planning Commission. He said he would bring information back to a study session within 60 days and before a moratorium on medical marijuana related businesses expires.