In Battle over Medical Marijuana, Muskegon Mayor Looks For State Guidance

Andrew Trzaska | September 13, 2011

Since the ballot initiative passed in late 2008 permitting the use of medical marijuana in Michigan under regulation, local governments, qualifying patients and their caregivers have been questioning just what those regulations could or should be.

Even with a Michigan Supreme Court ruling stating that marijuana dispensaries could not sell marijuana to licensed caregivers and patients and take a cut off the top, the law remains fuzzy in regards to other aspects, including where and how the marijuana could be grown.  This has lead to zoning questions that towns are still dealing with.

Following a discussion with the leader of the embattled Greater Michigan Compassion Club (GMCC) at Tuesday’s City Commission meeting, Mayor Steve Warmington asked the State of Michigan for more guidance on the law.

“I think it would help all of us if the state would take the lead to the issues in that law,” said Warmington. “A lot of people are taking their own interpretations of what this law is.”

Derek Antol, Executive Director and Treasurer of the Greater Michigan Compassion Club, spoke at Tuesday’s Muskegon City Commission meeting on continued action on the state level concerning the marijuana law.

Antol also spoke against moves by county prosecutor Tony Tague to shut down their local operations in the county, saying that for Tague to pursue legal action could be a waste of money if the GMCC’s legal status was upheld in the future.

Judge Timothy Hicks put a restraining order into effect against Antol and other operators of the Greater Michigan Compassion Club last week, saying the club’s continued operations after last month’s Supreme Court ruling were illegal.

Providing detailed packets of research to city commissioners, Antol argued that the previous ruling did not in fact kill the marijuana law and that closing of facilities as public nuisances were done on health code technicalities.

Antol expressed the GMCC’s desire to relocate to the City of Muskegon from its current location, commending the city commission’s patience, deliberation and “leniency”. He also asked for any aid from the town in convincing Tague to end his pursuit of them until after further Supreme Court review of the legislation.

Mayor Warmington immediately noted to Antol that the city had no control over the county prosecutor’s office or budget.  He then stated that Antol and other interested parties should contact their elected state representatives to force discussion on the state level about clarifying the law.

“The people of Michigan have shown they are in support of this,” said Warmington. “You [the GMCC] have been persistent… we just suggest you do so at the state level.”

While Commissioner Larry Spataro said the city should allow activity in accordance with the ordinances and zoning it put in place, he strongly cautioned Antol to follow the city’s rules to maintain good standing should the group be allowed to still exist in the future.

Andrew Trzaska

103.7 “The Beat” – local government beat reporter and political analyst