City councils ban medicinal marijuana shops

By Jennifer Wood

Local city governments are considering a ban similar to the ordinance passed by the Livonia City Council  in July that will prohibit the growth and distribution of medical marijuana within Livonia city limits.

The zoning ordinance, although not directly addressing medical marijuana laws, states that “uses for enterprises or purposes that are contrary to federal, state or local laws or ordinances are prohibited.”

While Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act legalized marijuana use for medicinal purposes in 2008, federal laws still prohibits what Livonia city attorney, Donald Knapp calls, “marijuana businesses.”

“The ordinance doesn’t even say anything about medical marijuana … If you have a valid Michigan medicinal marijuana card and you are in possession of it (marijuana), you’re not in violation,” said Knapp. “However, if you’re a caregiver attempting to distribute or sell it in a storefront, that would violate federal law.”

Knapp said that Livonia residents have not voiced any objections to the new ordinance.

However, Oakland University electrical engineering student, Anthony Leo, while not a resident of Livonia, would not be in support of such laws in his community.

“I think that it’s kind of a lame attempt at a community just trying to sit on the fence on the issue,” said Leo, who voted against the Medical Marijuana Act. “If you can go to a neighboring community and get it, then still use it in your community, then it’s still in your community whether you ban distribution or not.”

Other communities, including Royal Oak, have started to look at how to manage medical marijuana shops.

“The planning commission is currently considering what kind of amendment to make to the zoning ordinance considering medical marijuana … we’re taking a look at both side of the story,” said Royal Oak city attorney, Dave Gillam.

According to Gillam, while no final decision have been made, Royal Oak Chief of Police, Chris Jahnke, recommended the commission follow Livonia’s example of banning dispensaries from operating within the city.

Knapp also stated that Livonia’s legislation came about in part because of confusion about what the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act was targeting and voters not fully understanding the law.

“The law (Michigan’s Medical Marijuana Act) was poorly written and does not address the right issues,” Knapp said. “Frankly, we’re not interested in these type of businesses operating in Livonia.”