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Fraser officials researching medical marijuana

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published February 27, 2018

FRASER — City officials are researching as to whether Fraser should opt in to new state medical marijuana laws.

The topic was discussed at the city’s Feb. 8 meeting, when the revised Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act, or MMFLA, was voted in by state lawmakers. State law officially changed Dec. 15.

MMFLA introduces five new kinds of licenses: grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter or safety compliance center.

Growing, or cultivation of medical marijuana, refers to three classes that involve growing up to 500 plants, 1,000 plants or 1,500 plants. Processing relates to extraction, which involves taking the product and extracting oils for patients who may have epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. Provisioning centers are akin to what is widely known as dispensaries. Secure transporters move the product, while safety compliance involves using an independent testing lab to assess the product.

Former City Attorney Tim Tomlinson discussed how medical marijuana was originally enacted via ballot by statewide voters in 2008, with patients and caregivers being the focal point of the law. Issues arose when rules regarding dispensary operations became hazy.

“I would anticipate the (Michigan) Legislature put this regulatory scheme into place with the idea that they will seek to now allow individuals to continue grow it on their own, and try to get it out of the homes that are currently being utilized as grow facilities and any other facilities,” Tomlinson said Feb. 8.

Christopher Aiello, a longtime attorney from Warren and a member of the Michigan Cannabis Development Association, said local municipalities are either already opted in — like Lenox Township and Center Line — while others are still researching in regard to zoning ordinances and other issues.

He said Warren passed an ordinance two years ago, relegating growing to an industrial area that was more defined and away from neighborhoods.

“Guess what happened to all the vacant buildings in Warren that fit within the zoned area?” Aiello said. “They’re no longer vacant. They were purchased, they were inspected. … There’s lots of opinions on gateway drugs and all that, but if we begin the analysis and we begin the education to help you understand what this is all about, then you can bring back your knowledge (of) what you learned to your community to help you make a decision.”

Councilwoman Patrice Schornak stated that she never used the drug, but called marijuana expansion “just the reality of the world.” She also said marijuana is less damaging than alcohol, a legal substance in its own right.

Mayor Mike Carnagie said he has talked to caregivers and seen where growth occurs. He said facility sizes will impact any financial advantages.

“Myself and council are gonna have a real open mind about it,” Carnagie said. “Obviously there’s a lot of moving parts and more to understand. … You can’t just look at it as a financial thing, then you’re just looking at dollars and cents.”

He added that any decision will have to be good for the city and its residents.

Councilwoman Suzanne Kalka said the topic itself is controversial, noting the “incredibly negative” stigma that is often associated with marijuana.

“It is a hurdle that in large part must be overcome with education,” Kalka said. “It is important to realize that it is legal — both medically and recreationally — in small amounts in most major cities, especially on the west coast.

“While we are not ready to take that kind of plunge, it is likely the wave of the future. It is too bad that its medical properties were never properly explored until more recently, because it has shown to have amazing results to those with significant and chronic medical issues; (it) is a naturally grown substance and is much better for you overall than long and short-term use of synthetically manufactured narcotics.”

Kalka said she knows opting in would generate revenue for the city, but the discussion and implementation would have to be done in a controlled and dedicated fashion that would ultimately enhance a person’s quality of life.

Carnagie said the public discussion should continue as more research is gathered.