MASON – The Mason City Council voted to approve a 180-day moratorium on any applications for medical marijuana dispensaries in the city limits at its last meeting.
The previous 180-day moratorium had expired, and there still has been no clear direction from the state as to how municipalities should establish an ordinance to manage the businesses and primary caregivers, Mason City Council member Marlon Brown said.
“This may take a while to shake out in the courts,” Brown said. “In the meantime we are fine with having a moratorium on any new applications for doing business involving the dispensing of medical marijuana.”
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After the Medical Marijuana Act was approved by state voters in 2008, municipalities across the state have been grappling with how to control the proliferation of businesses that sell the drug for medicinal purposes.
In Mason, there was a long history of moratoriums since it was first introduced to the council in October, 2010.
There were three 180-day moratoriums from 2010 until 2012. After a workship and public hearings on the issue the board adopted Ordinance 188 in April 2012, which prohibited uses that are also prohibited by federal law.
“The use of marijuana is still illegal in the eyes of the federal government,” Brown said.
That’s why the city council went along with what other municipalities in the state did two years ago to take the stance that medical marijuana dispensaries are illegal and prohibited because of federal laws.
But that was challenged and struck down in the Michigan Supreme Court earlier this year. The court ruled local municipalities could not ban dispensaries with its own local ordinances.
“That put us back at the drawing board,” Brown said. “Now we will look to see how the legislature will try to tackle the issue and take a look at what we can do with our own ordinances.”
New bills have been presented in the legislature that look to attempt to provide some guidance for legalizing dispensaries, but police leaders in the state have said there isn’t enough clarity.
The Mason City Council was presented with letters from the Michigan Sheriff’s Association and Attorney General’s office at its last meeting Nov. 17 before voting on the moratorium.
Brown said the council also approved a motion to direct the Mason Planning Commission to study how to regulate dispensaries and primary caregiver operations to meet the intent of the Michigan Medical Marijuana act.
“We want to study how we can regulate these unique types of business in the city while still providing for the health, safety and welfare of our citizens,” Brown said. “There are many things to consider, including where this type of business could locate because of drug-free school zones and such.”
Brown said the council also wanted more time to see what comes form the legislature, if anything.
“We know this could be a slow process,” Brown said. “But we have no problem with taking our time to study it.”
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