The Ferndale City Council has given its unanimous approval to a medical marijuana center similar to one that county authorities raided with a SWAT team and padlocked in 2010.
But city officials said the Meridian Wellness Center, which is to occupy a former liquor store on East 9 Mile near I-75, will operate within state law as it provides medical marijuana to state-approved patients.
■ Related: Michigan Senate panel OKs bills allowing marijuana edibles, dispensaries
■ Related: Marijuana questions head for city ballot
“I’d like there to be more state guidelines for us to follow,” but the city found no reason to block the center from opening after those who proposed it met a list of conditions, Ferndale Mayor Dave Coulter said.
“Public sentiment has changed markedly in just the last five years, not only for medical marijuana but also for marijuana in general, so I think it’s only appropriate that we allow this,” Coulter said last week. Approval of the facility comes at a time when communities across Michigan vary widely in their attitudes toward medical marijuana shops, generally called dispensaries, because of continuing debate about their legality.
That debate will ebb if the state Senate enacts a law to let Michigan communities decide whether to allow dispensaries. The measure, sponsored by a western Michigan chiropractor — state Rep. Mike Callton, R-Nashville — passed the state House last year, was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee in July and could be enacted this year.
The Ferndale facility was approved by the Ferndale Planning Commission first and the city attorney, and then the City Council on July 28 — after the business partners said the center would operate as a nonprofit club and serve only its members, and after the partners had obtained 501 (c)3 tax status.
Adam Applebaum, 26, CEO of Meridian Wellness Center, will be one of three state-approved caregivers operating at the site, he told city officials. State-approved patients would visit by appointment only to obtain the drug and advice, and each caregiver would have a locked, enclosed container for storing the drug as required by state law, Applebaum said.
Under Michigan’s medical marijuana act, a caregiver can dispense the drug to no more than five state-registered patients, each of whom must be linked to that caregiver on the State of Michigan’s computer system. The facility would scrupulously abide by those rules, Applebaum said.
“A lot of people feel uncomfortable (about) having a caregiver come to their home, with their family right there, and then they have to talk about using a Schedule I narcotic,” he said. The facility will be secured by surveillance cameras, bulletproof windows and buzzer-operated locked doors, city documents said.
Under the plan, Meridian Wellness Center would avoid risky transactions such as selling to strangers off the street.
In August 2010, Ferndale’s Clinical Relief dispensary was raided. The case made headlines when investigators admitted they had used forged state medical marijuana registry cards to gain entry — a tactic that medical pot advocates likened to entrapment.
■ Related: Detroit marijuana expo boasts 100 vendors and a magic bus ride to try out wares
■ Related: Marijuana poses more risks than many realize
At least seven cases of those arrested at Clinical Relief were dismissed by an Oakland County circuit judge. The prosecutor’s office appealed and the cases are still working their way through the courts, said Rick Thompson of Flint, editor of the Compassion Chronicles website for medical marijuana users.
A year after the raid that closed Clinical Relief, Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette declared that all dispensaries in Michigan were illegal. His opinion empowered county prosecutors to raid scores of dispensaries, although 100 to 150 of them are thought to still be operating quietly while Michigan courts and lawmakers work toward deciding how medical marijuana should be distributed, Thompson said.
After the council vote, medical marijuana user Debra Young, 56, of Ferndale said she was thrilled. Young said she had been driving to Macomb County to get cannabis but that now “there’s a new meaning to keeping it local.”
This entry passed through the Full-Text RSS service — if this is your content and you’re reading it on someone else’s site, please read the FAQ at fivefilters.org/content-only/faq.php#publishers.