THE FIRST OF TWO medical marijuana workshops hosted by the city of Owosso was well attended on Thursday, Sept. 28. Medical marijuana experts traveled from outside Shiawassee County to join Owosso residents in discussing whether the city of Owosso should “opt in” to the Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing Act that takes effect on Dec. 15, 2017.
Following the second workshop on Oct. 21, the Owosso Planning Commission would be responsible for drafting any new medical marijuana ordinance(s). The proposed ordinance(s) would then be forwarded to the Owosso City Council for consideration. Multiple public meetings would be held prior to the council’s vote on said proposed ordinance(s).
(Independent Photo/Graham Sturgeon)
by Graham Sturgeon, co-editor
A medical marijuana workshop was held at Owosso City Hall on Thursday, Sept. 28, which drew upwards of 20 city residents, several medical marijuana consultants and attorneys, and other interested individuals. The workshop, which was led by assistant city manager and city coordinator Susan Montenegro, was also attended by members of the Owosso Planning Commission and City Council, who listened intently and took notes. Any information gleaned from the workshop will, presumably, be used to help the two governing bodies update the city’s medical marijuana ordinances in the coming months.
Governor Rick Snyder, in September, signed PA 281, 282, and 283, establishing Michigan’s Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act (MMFLA), and the new law will take effect on Dec. 15 of this year. The act will legalize the medical use of marijuana-infused products (edibles) and establish much clearer regulatory guidelines than the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act (MMMA) of 2008. While the MMMA and its patient/caregiver model will remain in place, residents of Owosso will not be able to utilize the provisions of the MMFLA until the city of Owosso establishes specific ordinances that are in line with the new law.
As Montenegro outlined in a PowerPoint presentation on Sept. 28, the MMFLA will allow for five separate licenses for the cultivation, processing, transport, distribution, and testing of medical marijuana. One individual could potentially possess licenses to grow, process, and distribute at the same address. Separate licensees would then be required for transportation and testing.
After the presentation, Montenegro opened the floor for discussion, and several individuals shared their opinions and/or testimonials. Several individuals spoke against allowing medical marijuana facilities of any kind in Owosso, citing concerns that such facilities would be a detriment to the safety of children and to residents’ quality of life, and that they would increase crime, while only benefiting a small number of people.
The majority, however, spoke in favor of the new law, pointing out that increased oversight, expensive licensing fees, and stricter regulations would actually decrease crime, make marijuana less available to children, and ensure the quality/safety of the medicinal product. Some also emphasized that the new law would not be introducing marijuana into the community, because the MMMA’s caregiver-patient system is already widely utilized throughout the city.
Montenegro was aided in answering residents’ questions regarding the new law by attorneys Michael Stein of Bloomfield Hills and Travis Copenhaver of Howell, as well as consultants Brant Johnson of Lansing and Tom Reif of Michigan Marijuana Law Experts.
Stein shared that the whole purpose of the new law was to “take marijuana out of basements and regulate it properly.” He also emphasized that potential licensees will be heavily scrutinized and will be licensed only after proving their financial ability, business experience and acumen, moral character, and after having passed an FBI background check.
He then highlighted some of the benefits to the community, such as increased revenue generated from annual licensing fees of up to $5,000 per licensee, and job creation. Stein noted that, if Owosso does not “opt in” to the MMFLA, patients will go outside the community for their medicine and spend their money elsewhere.
Several Owosso residents offered heartfelt testimonials, explaining to those in attendance why they need medical marijuana and refuse to ingest dangerous, highly addictive pharmaceuticals. It was shared that, through the processing of marijuana, the cannabidiol (CBD) compound can be isolated from the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) compound to produce a medicine that is said to treat a wide range of ailments without producing the “high” effect of smoked marijuana. This CBD can be ingested in many ways, which takes the dangers of smoking out of the equation.
The pro-MMFLA crowd was strongly in favor of the city allowing all five types of licenses. The city of Owosso Code of Ordinances currently prohibits marijuana facilities within 1,000 feet of schools, city-affiliated parks, and other marijuana facilities; and within 500 feet of places of worship, properties zoned residential, licensed daycare facilities, and public libraries. The city of Owosso’s next medical marijuana workshop will be at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Oct. 21 at Owosso City Hall, 301 W. Main Street.