MI: Ban On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Approved In Norton Shores

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Katelyn Baker

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Norton Shores, MI - Medical marijuana dispensaries are banned from operating in Norton Shores and will face a fine if they attempt to open.

Norton Shores City Council voted 6-1 Tuesday, Dec. 20, to approve an ordinance preventing medical marijuana dispensaries, transporters, processors, safety compliance facilities and growers from operating as a business within city lines.

The ordinance will set fees and fines to cover legal costs that might arise if a dispensary opens and the city has to take it to court to shut it down.

However, people who are licensed caregivers will still be allowed to grow the plant for state-licensed patients.

As a response to changes to Michigan medical marijuana laws going into effect in 2017, police chief Jon Gale previously introduced three options to the council regarding medical marijuana provisioning centers, known as dispensaries.

In order for dispensaries to open, city governments have to create an ordinance allowing them. If no action is taken, dispensaries are prohibited because they are still illegal in Michigan.

The options Gale provided were to take no action, adopt an ordinance allowing dispensaries to operate or adopt an ordinance preventing them from operating and creating a schedule of fees and fines for violations.

Norton Shores City Council came to a unanimous decision to draft the ordinance at the Dec. 6 meeting.

Prior to voting to adopt the ordinance, Paul Miller, a Norton Shores resident and dispensary owner, advised council not to pass it.

He said though medical marijuana is legal in Michigan, a patient in the Muskegon area would have to drive to cities such as Benton Harbor or Lansing to get it.

"A majority of the people on medical marijuana or in the program are on disability or low income people and can't afford to drive 80 to 100 miles or more," Miller said. "Let alone the people that don't have a car can't afford to get that distance."

William Moulatsiotis, the only council member to vote against the ordinance, suggested not adopting an ordinance, which would still ban dispensaries

"I think rushing to pass an ordinance when we could do nothing and maintain status quo is a little silly," Moulatsiotis said.

However, councilwoman M. Kay Beecham disagreed and cited examples Norton Shores police gave from Colorado. She said there is a reason to take action and that reason is to recover potential costs.

Moulatsiotis questioned why an ordinance had to be written to recoup costs associated with closing medical marijuana dispensaries when similar ones are not in place for businesses that sell alcohol or cigarettes without a license.

Mayor Gary Nelund said in the city's experiences, medical marijuana dispensaries are not the type of businesses wanted in Norton Shores.

"Many of our business owners in the city have said, 'I don't want this next to my business,' because it affects their business," Nelund said. "We're not opposed to the law necessarily ... you can buy it somewhere else, just not in Norton Shores."

He also said the city does not believe at this point the proposed revenue from the businesses would be enough to cover additional costs. To avoid federal banking laws, the businesses operate using only cash and would need added security, Nelund said.

The new ordinance, which is an amendment to Chapter 10 and regards businesses, will go into effect in 10 days.



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Full Article: Ban On Medical Marijuana Dispensaries Approved In Norton Shores
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