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Detroit could become leader in push to make medical marijuana dispensaries legal in Michigan

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DETROIT — Detroit could become a leader in the push to make medical marijuana dispensaries legal in Michigan.

City Council member James Tate wants the city to lobby Lansing for a bill to legalize dispensaries, with an estimated 50 to 180 in Detroit alone. Tate told the Detroit Free Press (http://on.freep.com/1BaJA9X ) that the city should draw up its own rules to eliminate "bad actors" and encourage ethical shops.

An early draft of proposed city regulations would require dispensaries to obtain a city-issued business license. Other recommendations include a restriction that dispensaries could not be less than 1,000 feet from each other, nor within 2,000 feet of a school, library, museum, child care center or city recreation center.

Tate said the city needs to ensure that dispensaries aren't selling marijuana to children, violating building codes or disrupting neighbors' quality of life. Some opposition comes from residents who see them as a potential danger.

"Do we want the kind of business that invites holdups and robbery and gunplay?" said Pam Weinstein, of the Rosedale Park Improvement Association, which represents an area on Detroit's west side. "They're like fortresses, which makes you feel uneasy."

PHOTO: Nathan Wilson, a care giver at one of the area Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Detroit shows some of the marijuana product on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Kirthmon F. Dozier)
Nathan Wilson, a care giver at one of the area Medical Marijuana Dispensaries in Detroit shows some of the marijuana product on Thursday, Jan. 8, 2015. (AP Photo/Detroit Free Press, Kirthmon F. Dozier)

Gov. Rick Snyder's spokeswoman Sara Wurfel said last week that the governor's office was working with lawmakers on legislation "to help create a clear, better regulatory structure and give local governments more ability to manage medical marijuana dispensaries."

Michigan voters approved marijuana use for some chronic medical conditions in 2008, but the legality of dispensaries was thrown into doubt by court rulings. The Michigan Supreme Court deemed dispensaries illegal in 2013. Some have shut down but many still operate.

In a building on Detroit's east side, across the street from the suburb of Grosse Pointe Park, a steady stream of customers buys medical marijuana from one dispensary.

"We've reached out to many people who were against this and turned them around," said owner Adam MacDonald, 40, of Grosse Pointe Farms. He is chairman of the National Patients Rights Association, a group of mostly Michigan dispensary owners, lobbyists and lawyers.

Last year, Republican Rep. Mike Callton introduced a bill in the state legislature to legalize dispensaries, or businesses that sell marijuana, to registered patients and caregivers. The bill died in the Senate last month, but Callton plans to re-introduce it in the current session.


Information from: Detroit Free Press, http://www.freep.com

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