City of Dexter ‘Passes’ On Engaging Medical Marijuana Expert

medical marijuana
Barton Morris

This week’s Dexter City Council regular meeting opened with a brief presentation by attorney Barton Morris, the principal lawyer at Cannabis Legal Group, which lasted eight minutes and ended with a call for questions and comments from the council members to take advantage of his knowledge of the topic of medical marijuana.

The council’s response was silence and a succinctly polite farewell from Mayor Shawn Keough, indicating that the city would not be exploring the topic of medical marijuana facilities within the city limits in the future.

This matched up with the brief comments given during reports at the previous February 27 regular council meeting where Village Manager Courtney Nicholls informed council members that Morris had written a letter indicating he would be paying the council a visit. There was a muted incredulity in the very brief discussion of the letter.

The city has taken action similar those taken by the surrounding townships, which is to say the municipalities of the region haven’t taken any at all. By not including uses for medical marijuana facilities in their ordinance or zoning laws, the Dexter area has decided to passively bar the medical marijuana industry from operating in the area in this way. Only home occupation growth is allowed by the licensed marijuana using individual only, although not all such users have the ability or means to do so effectively.

The majority of Morris’s presentation drove at knocking down preconceived negative notions medical marijuana, while also addressing some very real concerns that have cropped up as a result of the implementation of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008 which began the state’s individual journey down the road to legalization that so many other states across the country are taking.

“What’s going on right now is something that probably your community is dealing with as many many others are … of individuals growing too much marijuana in their basements and in buildings,” Barton said. “When I say too much, the medical marijuana act allows individual caregivers to grow 12 plants per patient, and that’s a lot of marijuana that’s being grown.

“What’s happening is that they’re growing too much and then the extra marijuana overages are being distributed on the black market to other individuals for whom it was not contemplated for its receipt.”

Governor Rick Snyder last September signed three bills that took what the MMMA of 2008 started to the next logical step for a new industry born of the circumstances surrounding the substance of marijuana prior to 2008: the bills created a framework for more professional regulated grow facilities in industrial and agricultural zones, legalized and regulated production of goods using marijuana as a component or ingredient such as edibles, and a “seed-to-sale” tracking system to address precisely what Morris raised as the primary unintended consequence of the MMMA prior to the creation of House Bill 4209, House Bill 4827, and House Bill 4210.

“It’s because of this phenomena that states are enacting laws providing regulatory systems which cannabis can be regulated, marketed, and grown and provided on a safe basis,” he added. As he explains it, the industrial and commercial transformation of the medical marijuana industry under these three bills should actually reduce the size and influence of the caregiver population, who comprise a great deal of the growers who are overgrowing and selling the excess on the black market, without eliminating it outright. There would essentially two regulated systems comprising the medical marijuana market and industry as a whole.

The impetus for Morris coming to Dexter, at least in part, is that licenses granted under the three Snyder-signed House Bills began the application and issuance phase this past December, when the new laws were designed to go into effect.

He informed the council members that now was the time for municipalities who want to attract this type of business to act to provide a legal framework for individual medical marijuana industry actors to interface with in attempts to locate their facilities in the communities such as Dexter.

“This municipality can decide whether (it) wants these facilities, how many (it) wants, and under what circumstances (it) wants them,” Morris explained. “This is a process that will take a considerable amount of time and certainly something that will take a lot of effort and understanding as to exactly how this can work in your municipality.”

Morris recommended that the City Council hold public hearings as a preamble to any serious crafting of local ordinance and zoning law at the planning commission and city council levels of government, in order to gauge and consider public interest and also the amount of need that exists with those who rely on medical marijuana to manage the pain they suffer from their medical conditions, in lieu of addictive prescription drugs such as those from the opioid family of drugs.

Aside from zoning and placement, the city will also need to consider advertising and signage standards and begin to study and understand the compensatory model for the medical marijuana industry in Michigan. The industry’s sales are subject to Michigan’s six percent sales tax, like any other consumer good, but there is also a three percent excise tax from which county and local governments will receive revenue sharing.

“There are a lot of things the municipality can do in order to control it and make it into something that satisfies the patients in the community, satisfies the residents, doesn’t deplete property taxes and can be something that the city can be proud of,” Morris concluded his remarks before opening the floor to council comments and questions.

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