New Baltimore City Council Has Mixed Feelings on Medical Pot Dispensaries
City council voted to ask the planning commission to draw an ordinance regulating the distribution of medical marijuana in New Baltimore and imposed a 60-day extension of its dispensary moratorium.
The medical marijuana dispensary debate – which invokes passionate emotions between chronically ill patients and staunch opponents of pot shops across the state – moved a couple miles down the road Monday night.
The topic shifted from Chesterfield Township, the hotly contested home of Big Daddy's Hydroponics, to the quaint neighboring town of New Baltimore when City Council expressed mixed feelings about dispensaries.
Ultimately rejecting proposals to extend a moratorium on medical pot dispensaries in the city for one year and then failing to approve it for 90 days, a majority of council eventually agreed to extend the moratorium for 60 days. The caveat to the temporary ban: council members voted to request the New Baltimore Planning Commission to draft an ordinance regulating medical marijuana distribution and bring it back to council within 60 days.
That move could possibly pave way for dispensaries to come to the city, pending authorization by city council.
Citing impending court cases in Michigan, City Attorney Jack Dolan had advised council to continue its stance to prevent dispensaries in the city.
"The opinions right now are coming down that generally medical marijuana storage is not legal," Dolan said. "We recommend to the administration that the moratorium be continued."
Councilmen Jeffrey Christie, Ken Butler and Zack Stanton expressed support for medical marijuana dispensaries.
"So it really doesn't make no difference if the people voted for this? The government's going to shut it down regardless – or the Attorney General's Office," Christie said, referring to Michigan voters who passed the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act in November 2008 and Atty. Gen. Bill Schuette's firm stance against dispensaries.
Banning regulated dispensaries when voters passed the medical marijuana act is contradictory, Butler said.
"That's like saying 'We all voted for (Rick) Snyder but Virg Benero is our governor,'" he said.
Butler said revoking options for people who cannot grow or harvest their own medical pot is horrific, considering the pains of chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. If people know of the obstacles seriously ill patients face, they would be open to helping alleviate their suffering, he said.
"My first wife died of breast cancer so I get a little wound up," he said after the meeting.
Councilwoman Florence Hayman expressed concerns over potential litigation if dispensaries came to the city.
"Look at Chesterfield and how much they spent," Hayman said of the Big Daddy's court battle.
Council also discussed keeping any dispensaries away from certain locations within the city, such as schools.
Earlier that day, Mayor Larry Smith, who did not vote on the matter, said state and federal stances on medical marijuana distribution give mixed messages that would be confusing for local law enforcement and residents.
"It's such a can of worms," he said.
The council majority voted last fall on a medical marijuana dispensary moratorium with Christie and Butler opposing it. Newcomer Stanton helped back up their sentiment that banning properly regulated dispensaries is wrong.
Along with Hayman, Councilman Karl Rutledge was in favor of dispensary ban extensions during all three votes of one year, 90 days and 60 days. Butler agreed to the 90-day ban as long as planning officials drafted the dispensary ordinance, but Stanton and Christie voted against it. Butler, Hayman, Stanton and Rutledge agreed to the 60-day ban with Christie casting the sole opposing vote. Councilwoman Susan Burkhardt was absent.
On Monday night, Big Daddy's spokesman Rick Thompson said the dispensary is still operational in Chesterfield Township. It must conform to the state medical marijuana act and decisions of the Michigan Court of Appeals, he said.
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