By Steve Elliott of Toke of the Town
A medical marijuana center in Ypsilanti has become the first in Michigan to receive a dispensary license from a local municipality.
The 3rd Coast Compassion Center, which was also the state's first medical marijuana dispensary to open its doors in late 2009, received its licensed from the City of Ypsilanti in May, reports Tom Perkins of Annarbor.com.
The dispensary, located at the corner of Hamilton and Pearl streets in Ypsilanti, was open prior to the city establishing zoning ordinances and a licensing process. It was the first allowed to submit its application for a license.
Michigan patients, caregivers, law enforcement and civil authorities are still sorting out whether or not dispensaries are legal in the state since the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act was approved by an overwhelming 63 percent of voters in November 2008. Opponents argue that nothing in the law allows the centers to exist, but medical marijuana advocates argue they are acting within the law, saying that nothing in the act says they can't operate.
Dispensaries are not required to be licensed, according to Michigan's medical marijuana law, and such regulatory decisions have been left to local municipalities.
There are zoning ordinances in place in Ypsilanti Township, but no licensing ordinances or procedures. In Ann Arbor, the City Council is expected to vote Monday night on a new ordinance that caps at 20 the number of dispensaries the city will license. Ann Arbor officials recently decided they wouldn't allow cultivation facilities or even home-grow operations.
"The spirit and intent of the law" is to provide patients who use medical marijuana with uninterrupted access to cannabis, according to Jamie Lowell, who founded 3rd Coast along with Darrell Stavros.
Michigan dispensaries including 3rd Coast operate by allowing member caregivers and patients to bring their excess cannabis to the club, which is then made available to other patients. No marijuana is cultivated on the premises, and Lowell said all transactions are small and well within the law.
According to Lowell, 3rd Coast is a private club, and people must demonstrate that they are licensed caregivers or patients to participate. The center helps patients decide which cannabis strains and methods of ingestion are best suited to manage their particular ailment, and the club also offers a safe place for patients to medicate.
Lowell said his dispensary supports the idea of licensing such facilities, and is generally pleased with the city's ordinances and regulations. Several city officials and council members discussed medical marijuana issues with Stavros, Lowell and others involved in the industry before writing the ordinances.
"Charge us for doing this like you may for another entity," Lowell said. "Do it so that everyone wins ... and at the heart of it let's help the patient."
"If a municipality chooses to use the law as Ypsilanti has, they get businesses in buildings that have been vacant, jobs are created, it brings in people from out of town who use other businesses like restaurants, it brings in a little money for the city because of license costs, crime is reduced, and they do all that by way of helping patients with their health care," Lowell said. "This is a great way of doing it and I believe we demonstrated that in Ypsi."
Ypsilanti Mayor Paul Screiber said he wasn't aware of any issues with the dispensary.
"Nothing has come to city concil, so that's good news," he said.
Four other dispensaries have also been issued licenses in Ypsilanti, meaning five are legally operating in the city.
Article From Toke of the Town and republished with special permission.