A vote on a special use permit that would allow a proposed medical marijuana dispensary and grow operation to move into an Ypsilanti Township building has been delayed a second time.
Denise Pollicella, an attorney representing the Michigan Wellness Group, asked the Ypsilanti Township Planning Commission to table the resolution for 60 days, which the commission did at its Aug. 26 meeting.
Planning Director Joe Lawson and Policella said Michigan Wellness is awaiting a Michigan Senate vote on proposed legislation that would fully legalize the type of transactions and grow operation the dispensary needs to allow it to succeed.
Separate court decisions deemed dispensaries and edible usage of marijuana are illegal under the current Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, though not all counties have moved to shut down dispensaries. Two separate bills that would make dispensaries and marijuana-infused edibles legal overwhelmingly passed in the House in December are expected to pass in the Senate in September.
“We all agreed that without the ability to retail medical marijuana in the dispensary it would be difficult to make a profit and … state law is due to change in September,” Pollicella said.
But that doesn’t necessarily resolve an issue with the township’s zoning ordinance, and confusion over the proposed dispensary eventually led to Pollicella threatening a lawsuit.
Stella’s Place LLC wants to renovate a space in a light industrial zone at 435 Joe Hall Drive, but Eastern Michigan University’s Foundation Office, located at 1349 S. Huron St., is within 1,000 feet of the site.
The township’s ordinance regarding medical marijuana facilities states they cannot be located within 1,000 feet of schools, churches, child care organizations, libraries, universities or residential uses or districts, so a special use permit would be required.
A public hearing on the plans was tabled at a July meeting after the township failed to publish notice in a newspaper of record in time.
An article published in the Ann Arbor News the following day stating that no one from Michigan Wellness showed up to the meeting prompted Pollicella to write a letter to the township threatening a lawsuit.
In the letter and in an interview with the Ann Arbor News after the Aug. 26 planning commission meeting, Pollicella asserted that the township never contacted her clients about the July meeting and said that the article stating that the owners never showed up was an attempt to discredit Michigan Wellness.
She claimed multiple phone calls and emails to the township dating back to April went unanswered.
Because of the threat of a lawsuit, Lawson and Ypsilanti Township Attorney Dennis McLain declined to comment on the proposal.
“No statements about that will be made until everything gets resolved,” McLain said.
In an interview with the Ann Arbor News, Pollicella said she doesn’t believe that the dispensary would be within 1,000 of the EMU foundation. She also contended that the foundation is a non-profit that raises money for the university and is not technically part of the university.
“It’s university affiliated. But it’s a private company, and it’s not a part of the university,” Pollicella said.
Prior to and at the July 22 meeting, Lawson expressed several concerns about what services the company offers and whether they’re legal under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act. Caregivers currently can only grow up to 12 plants for themselves and five registered patients.
In his recommendation to the planning commission, Lawson wrote that he checked the company’s website and found it allows patient-to-patient transactions, which he said are illegal under the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act per a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling. The company also offers edible medical marijuana products, which Lawson wrote are not covered by the MMMA.
Lawson also wrote in his July 22 recommendation to the planning commission that it appears the group is not aware of the township’s zoning ordinances regarding patient/caregiver relationships.
“This applicant may not be clear as to the intent and/or regulations set forth in our local ordinance as they relate to the patient/caregiver relationship and further that patient-to-patient sales or transfer has been deemed illegal under the MMMA by the State Supreme Court,” Lawson wrote. “There appears to be far too many questions to be answered at this time in relation to the proposed operation of the facility for staff to make a positive recommendation in relation to this application.”
Pollicella said Michigan Wellness’s website is not up-to-date and again questioned why the township hadn’t contacted her or her clients directly. She said her clients likely wouldn’t have submitted an application if it would have had some clarification.
“Because I couldn’t get an answer out of the township we filed an application just to force them to give us some answers,” Pollicella said.
She also said the planning commission focused on a dispensary in Detroit of which one of her clients is part owner, though she said that dispensary is not affiliated with the proposed Ypsilanti Township dispensary.
“(Lawson) was making a lot of ridiculous assumptions about my clients based on very cursory, not accurate research on the Internet, which is unfair,” Pollicella said.
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