ESCANABA - Concerns regarding the state's medical marijuana act has prompted Escanaba to develop a resolution addressing local issues with the state legislation, council decided at its meeting Thursday.
Discussion of the law was an agenda item addressed by Mayor Pro Tem Brady Nelson who has encouraged area municipalities to join the bandwagon in voicing concerns on the legislation enacted in 2008.
Prior to the council meeting, representatives from the Upper Peninsula Substance Enforcement Team, also known as UPSET, gave a presentation on drug abuse in the U.P. that was broadcast during the Manager's Call session.
Former UPSET Commander Lt. George Sailer of the Michigan State Police spoke about several drugs being used and abused in the area including marijuana.
Because of the medical marijuana legislation, eligible patients and caregivers are allowed by law to grow pot plants for specific medical conditions, said Sailer. Requirements to receive a medical marijuana card include a doctor's prescription, an application filed through a state agency, and a fee.
Each eligible patient can grow up to 12 plants at a time. Caregivers can grow 12 plants for each patient and have up to five patients. If caregivers are patients themselves, they can grow the allowed 12 plants for themselves in addition to the plants for patients, explained Sailer.
Sailer said one issue with the medical marijuana law is that police do not have access to the names of people who have cards allowing them to grow marijuana.
The state does not give out the names because of patient confidentiality and medical privacy rules, he said.
Sailer also said another concern is there are no inspections of marijuana grows once a person becomes eligible to grow pot.
"It's a vague law with very little direction," he said.
In addition, the state is four months behind in issuing medical marijuana cards, said Sailer. Anyone who applies and is not denied a card within 20 days, is considered eligible for a card, he explained.
Escanaba Public Safety Director Ken Vanderlinden told council he is concerned about the safety of officers and the public because of the marijuana grows. Breaking and entering incidents have occurred at legal growing operations. Officers also do not know if pot grows are legal or illegal because they have no way of finding out before a drug bust is made.
"Officer safety is a serious concern of mine," Vanderlinden said, stating how officers have access to holders of concealed weapons permits but not medical marijuana cards.
Nelson said he would like the city to look at developing a local ordinance to not be able to grow marijuana in the community. He added this is not an option right now because of appeals pending in the Michigan Supreme Court. Downstate Wyoming, which instated a local ordinance banning marijuana grows, is appealing a ruling against that city, he said.
Nelson recommends individuals contact their state representatives, including the governor's office, to allow local control on marijuana grows and to provide law enforcement with a list of who can legally grow marijuana here.
"We've got to do something," Nelson said. "We're not in the position to outlaw marijuana but we're in a position to control the problem in our community... We need to clean up our community. We need to take pride in our community."
Nelson asked that a resolution be developed to consider at the next council meeting.
Vanderlinden suggested the resolution should state the law's affects on the community and specify what needs to be changed in the legislation.
In other business, council formed a subcommittee to look into concerns about recent increased ordinance enforcement of campers and trailers parked on city streets and boulevards.
Council approved the sale of a lot in the Whitetail Industrial Park for $22,120 to SGT'S Recycling Inc. to construct a recycling collection facility. (See related story.)
Council approved 2012-13 service agreements with the William Bonifas Fine Arts Center for $5,000 from the city and with the Delta County Historical Society for $2,000 from the city, as budgeted.
- - -
Jenny Lancour, (906) 786-2021, ext. 143, email@example.com