Traverse City will allow marijuana businesses

By Jordan Travis
The Record-Eagle

TRAVERSE CITY — City officials will begin crafting rules to allow five newly legal types of medical marijuana businesses in Traverse City.

But it’ll be some months before those rules will be ready so the city can officially allow them, and prescription cannabis users and advocates are already tired of waiting.

They lined up to tell city commissioners as much at their meeting Tuesday. That’s when commissioners unanimously approved a resolution stating the city intends to allow provisioning centers, testing labs, processors and other businesses allowed under the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act.

Catalina Harrington told commissioners she has post-traumatic stress disorder and struggles to sleep, even to look people in the eye. She doesn’t want to wonder every day when the city will allow commercial businesses to sell something she can use to treat the disorder.

“I can’t sit around and wait to stop screaming to see what’s in my head,” she said. “I don’t want to have to wait, I don’t want to have to travel out of counties and counties and counties to get what we have right here.”

Harrington’s pleas echoed those of several others who get relief from the plant and want a safe, legal way to obtain it locally.

Commissioners also agreed to task planning commissioners with drafting zoning rules for the businesses, and set a study session to discuss their own role in implementing the change. They agreed not to temporarily allow the businesses until the ordinances are in place.

That won’t be until June at the earliest, city Commissioner Brian McGillivary said. That’s why he proposed getting the process started now.

Medical marijuana isn’t controversial in the city, McGillivary contended. City voters strongly supported the statewide referendum legalizing it in 2008. And city zoning already allows for some marijuana-related uses — Commissioner Richard Lewis said collectives, which provide marijuana to patients, are allowed, and acting city Attorney Karrie Zeits said cultivation is allowed in industrial districts.

McGillivary’s request came two months after the new law took effect. It creates a regulated way for patients to get marijuana from something more like a pharmacy, he said.

Patients previously had to either grow their own or get the plant or its extracts from a caregiver — the new law still allows this.

Local governments must opt in to allow these new businesses. Zeits said the city won’t officially opt in until commissioners adopt zoning rules allowing the uses.

Lewis said he is concerned about whether the state Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs’ temporary rules for the businesses will last.

But Commissioner Michele Howard said waiting for permanent ones leaves people planning to open these businesses hanging. Plus, the city can adapt to any regulatory changes from the state.

“If there’s a change, we only have to do a minor change, or a major one, but either way we’ve at least started this process and we’ve given our small business owners a chance to plan, because right now they’re in limbo,” she said.

Commissioner Amy Shamroe said she supported McGillivary’s request but wishes city leaders had talked it over in a study session first. Commissioner Brian Haas said he wants patients to have open access to medical marijuana, but cautioned the process to allow it in the city may not be as straightforward as people hope.

Mayor Jim Carruthers noted city leaders and department heads were waiting for state regulators to make rules for the new businesses. Now it’s time to take the next step.

“It’s our intent to make this work, but government unfortunately isn’t overnight, it happens slowly, it takes meetings, it takes approvals,” he said.

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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