The has extended its moratorium on certain land uses associated with medical marijuana, for a second, six-month period. Council voted to extend the moratorium, which it began on Aug. 9, 2010 and re-upped on Feb. 14, for another six months.
A public hearing wasn't required due to the emergency and interim basis of the moratorium, city attorney Stephen Schultz said. In addition, he recommended that council freeze the status quo on medical marijuana in Fenton, due to recent Michigan district and circuit court decisions ruling the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act unconstitutional. This includes a case against the city of Livonia, heard in Wayne County Circuit Court, which ruled the state act unconstitutional.
City Manager Lynn Markland said Schultz continues to monitor court cases, because rules on the medical marijuana act are still evolving. Fenton's moratorium temporarily denies certain land uses connected with the use of marijuana for medical purposes, for six months.
According to the interim ordinance council approved Monday, the current city zoning and land use ordinance doesn't address the proper location for certain medical marijuana activities, since many of these were illegal under state and federal law until a state referendum. The moratorium temporarily denies the use of land or buildings in the city for medical marijuana growing or processing, distribution or dispensing, smoking or other administration, stores for specialized equipment, and specialized schools or training.
It does not deny a properly licensed person from using marijuana for medical purposes.
There is a significant question of whether Michigan's Medical Marijuana Act will have any legal effect, when issues pass through the appellate courts, Schultz said. In addition, legislation is being introduced to try to clarify and define who can obtain a medical marijuana card, under what circumstances they can do so, and penalties for inappropriately obtaining a medical marijuana card. He expects this legislation to move through the state legislature this fall.
As a result of court decisions and new laws, Fenton will probably need to look at its draft ordinance on medical marijuana cultivation and distribution activities, and fine tune the draft to comply with state law. Thus, Schultz recommended extending the moratorium on certain land uses connected with medical marijuana, he said.
Council discussed extending the moratorium at its work session earlier in the month, Mayor Sue Osborn said.
Councilman Ben Smith asked why council couldn't extend the moratorium for a year, so it doesn't have to discuss it again in six months.
Schultz replied it is a temporary order to freeze the status quo, which council can re-evaluate in six months. If council enacts a moratorium for a year, some in the medical marijuana industry could challenge the city and say it's a ban and not a temporary order.
Councilwoman Dianne North said someone in an apartment complex was distributing information on where people can go to get a medical marijuana card. North asked whether this was legal.
Schultz said it is advertising, and it's legal. The question is, whether the state's medical marijuana act is legal. There are doctors who have issued thousands of permits for people to get a medical marijuana card. Many patients have conditions that probably weren't considered when the question was placed on the state ballot, he said.
North said the flyer she saw being distributed advertised medical marijuana cards for $125.
From $125 to $250 is the typical price, Schultz said.
In addition, in response to a question from Councilwoman Cheryl King, he said the U.S. Attorney's Office, for the Department of Justice, has sent letters to state and local governments that are considering whether to authorize the manufacture, distribution or sale of marijuana for medical purposes. The U.S. Attorney's position is, the federal government won't spend its time and resources prosecuting people who have a bona fide treatment regimen for medical marijuana, which their doctors prescribe. These treatment plans are for chemotherapy patients and those with end-stage illnesses, for example, and not patients with conditions such as lower back or ankle pain.
The federal government has been warning states and localities to be very careful about what they authorize in their jurisdictions, Schultz said. Possessing or manufacturing any marijuana is illegal, according to federal law.
Due to the fact marijuana is illegal under federal law and legal issues are being worked out, the city needs to step back and take another look at how court cases are being resolved, Schultz said. These cases are on a fairly fast track, he believes.
Council approved extending the moratorium, 7-0.