By: Benjamin J. Gohs, Associate Editor
Citing uncertainty about the legality of medical marijuana dispensaries and collectives, the Boyne City Commission voted unanimously last week to extend the current moratorium for a year. Discussion on the issue took place during the board’s Sept. 6, regular meeting.[private]
“Back in march the commission adopted a resolution to establish a six-month moratorium that prevented medical marijuana uses from being set up in the city for the period of six months,” said Boyne City Planning Director Scott McPherson. “This has been a very challenging act … to understand and … to develop an ordinance to meet the needs of the city by still staying within the realm of the ordinance and it’s also kind of a moving target.”
He added, “The attorney general opinion in July and the court of appeals in August have further focused and refined what you can do. Given these challenges we request that the moratorium be extended for another six-month period.”
Laura Sansom said she is in favor of extending the moratorium. “I think there’s too much controversy and too many different directions,” she said. “It’s going to end up with the state courts deciding anyway pretty much, isn’t it?”
McPherson said that is possible. The consensus of the commission was that, until an across-the-board decision is made on the legal status of various marijuana dispensaries, Boyne City should stand pat.
“They’re more likely going to be trumped by the state,” said Boyne City Commissioner Ron Grunch. Boyne City Commissioner Delbert Towne said, “I believe this is going to create a real problem with our police department and drug enforcement. And, I don’t think we can be too cautious or too strict with developing a city ordinance.” McPherson said the moratorium will give the planning commission the opportunity to develop whatever language they can and, if there’s something that’s needed, give the commission enough time to adopt it.
The original moratorium was set to expire at the end of September. Boyne City Mayor Chuck Vondra advocated extending the moratorium for more than six months. “I don’t think it’s legal. The court of appeals made a decision on this. I can’t imagine why we wouldn’t do it unless there’s some legal consequence indefinitely,” he said. “Right now the court of appeals says it’s not legal. You cannot have these consortium or dispensaries, so I don’t know why we would visit it now, wait six months and visit it again because right now it appears to be illegal.” Vondra added, “My opinion is now we do it indefinitely pending a law change.”
McPherson said Vondra is correct in the dispensary being illegal, but cautioned that, without an ordinance, it would be impossible to levy further restrictions on medical marijuana caregivers. “There are possible other land uses that could be associated with this with the provider-patient relationship,” he said. “How that transpires; whether that’s a home occupation; can it happen in someone’s house?; would there be a need to regulate where those can be; those kinds of things.” Vondra asked if those concerns are regulated now.
“You’ve got a lot of work to do because people have these medical marijuana cards,” Vondra said. “If you regulate that now you’ve got your hands full because they’re all over.”
McPherson said the commission could if it wants to.
McPherson said without passing regulations there will be no way to force medical marijuana caregivers to avoid delivering the marijuana from their home; and there would be no requirement on how far providers must be from one another. Vondra asked if the planning department had any work in progress on this issue. “There is the draft ordinance that kind of outlines all that,” McPherson said. “It’s still being worked on at the planning commission. The planning commission is struggling over whether or not they want to do this and whether the city should do this.”
Vondra said the dispensary is the main issue. “I won’t be here in six months sitting up here on this board so I guess it’s up to you guys,” he said. Vondra motioned to impose the current medical marijuana moratorium for an additional 12 months.
The motion was carried by a unanimous vote[/private]