Farmington Hills city officials looked Monday night at the latest draft for a set of rules governing the cultivation and distribution of medical marijuana.
If passed, the rules would give prospective providers a handful of guidelines to follow that largely echo state rules and fall under city zoning, rather than criminal, jurisdiction.
members passed the proposed ordinance to the city's planning commission for further review. After they've given it more consideration, it will go before the council again for final approval.
The proposed ordinance generally follows the Medical Marihuana Act passed by voters in 2008, which allows licensed caregivers to grow and provide the drug to patients with state-issued cards that verify they have a prescription. The proposed Farmington Hills ordinance has a few extra provisions. In addition to complying with the state act, providers must:
- stay at least 1,000 feet away from a school zone,
- service no more than five patients per week
- securely lock all product
- shield growing room light sources from outside viewing
- obtain proper permits for all light and water installations
- get approval from the Farmington Hills Fire Department when energy use, heat generation or the presence of chemical substances – herbicides and the like – push past the level of normal household use.
The proposed ordinance allows only one caregiver per parcel and makes a distinction: Medical marijuana is legal, marijuana is not.
During the study session discussion of the ordinance, mayor Jerry Ellis asked city attorney Steve Joppich if a recent court case that held the state act unconstitutional counted towards their deliberations.
"That was the district court in Dearborn," Joppich said. "It's a well-written opinion, I imagine it will be appealed, but it doesn't apply to us."
He pointed to the recent Court of Appeals decision in the King case, which said that while there was no right to use medical marijuana, a valid provider's card or patient's card was an affirmative defense – a way to get charges dismissed – if a prosecution is brought. He said that case has already been petitioned to the state Supreme Court.
Council member Randy Bruce said the proposed ordinance was good for the city, in that it addressed the issue from a land use perspective. He said it allows the city to sidestep the issue of medical marijuana use, in favor of deciding where it can and cannot be distributed. City manager Steve Brock said the ordinance regulates what it can, while staying within the guidelines that Michigan voters approved by ballot.
Ellis said people still don't know enough about the impact and efficacy of marijuana as a medical alternative. He talked about a few medical conditions he was getting treatment for and revealed that he wondered whether medical marijuana was right for him. There are too many questions, he said, to make any kind of rational choice.
"Can I take it and then drive to work?" he asked. "I don't think so. I quit smoking (cigarettes) 30 years ago, I don't want to start again. I want something safe."
Council member Kenneth Massey said federal powers are moving along their own tracks with their own agendas. At a recent forum of federal law enforcement, he said the possession of a provider or patient card – even if legally obtained – could prevent someone from getting permission to purchase a gun or a license to carry one concealed.
Hills officials have had this ordinance under consideration since December. In January, they halted progress on a proposed ordinance that would have effectively prohibited medical marijuana-related businesses, after officials and citizens complained it would keep people from asserting their rights under state law.
"I'm glad we took the time to do this right," council member Michael Bridges said.