City Council passes ordinance regarding medical marijuana shops

Williamston City Hall-- photo provided by the city hall website.

By Eric Walters
Williamston Post staff writer

On March 12, the Williamston City Council passed an ordinance that will prohibit the construction and operation of medical marijuana shops.

Timothy Perrone, the Williamston city attorney, said that the ordinance disallows the zoning administration from issuing a permit for the use of something that is illegal under federal law. Medicinal marijuana, despite being legal in the state of Michigan as of 2008, is illegal under federal law. This means that, with the new ordinance, the zoning commission in Williamston cannot issue a permit for a medical marijuana shop.

The ordinance passed 4-1. The only city council member who voted against it was Sandy Whelton. Former mayor Michelle Van Wert was absent from the meeting.

The ordinance is a polar opposite to one proposed a year ago. As reported by the Lansing State Journal in January 2011, there were plans to allow medical marijuana dispensaries in three zones of Williamston. At the time, it was believed that an ordinance in support of medical marijuana could have been passed by March 14, 2011. Instead, nearly a year later to the day, on March 12, 2012, the city council passed the current ordinance.

One reason for the change was negative feelings in the Williamston community. Reported(link) in the Williamston Watercooler last year, Tuesday Books (link) co-owner Beth Phelps, who is also a mother, said that she hated the idea of a medical marijuana dispensary in Williamston. Phelps’ feelings are not inconsistent with marijuana’s stigma as a gateway drug.

Police Chief Bob Young said that a lot of the crime in Williamston is driven by drug addiction. The most common drugs seen are heroin, methamphetamine and prescription drugs. Marijuana is often considered a gateway drug, the use of which could lead to more restricted substances such as heroin and methamphetamine. With the new ordinance, marijuana will be less available.

In February, 2012, city council still didn’t know(link) how to handle the issue. Ultimately, were able to agree upon, though not unanimously, a new ordinance that restricts medical marijuana dispensaries from operating in the city.

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