City Won’t Make Medical Marijuana Grows Apply For Licenses


Medical marijuana dispensary owner Chuck Ream holds a sign calling for the firing of Ann Arbor City Attorney Stephen Postema outside city hall last month. Ream has been at odds with Postema over details of the city’s medical marijuana ordinances.

​City council members in Ann Arbor, Michigan have decided they no longer want to have licensing regulations for medical marijuana cultivation facilities.

The city could still regulate where the grow facilities — places where medical pot is grown other than private homes — can be located through the city’s zoning ordinance, reports Ryan J. Stanton at But the council voted Monday night at the request of Council Member Sabra Briere (D-1st Ward) to remove any reference to cultivation facilities from a proposed licensing ordinance.
Licensing rules will still apply to dispensaries, the places where cannabis is sold to patients.

Photo: Ryan Stanton/
Ann Arbor City Council Member Stephen Kunselman said he doesn’t want to gather information on caregivers that could end up in the hands of the federal government

​Council Member Stephen Kunselman (D-3rd Ward) said he was concerned about letting marijuana cultivation facilities go unregulated from a licensing standpoint.
Before the changes made Monday night, the proposed licensed ordinance would have capped the number of dispensary licenses at 20 and capped cultivation facility licenses at 10. The limit on the number of dispensaries remains the same, but there is no longer any limit on the number of cultivation facilities.
According to Kunselman, that was a tough call.
“There’s a number of things we have to be concerned about,” he said. “Will we have a proliferation of cultivation facilities that are unlicensed running in our commercial and research enterprise zones? I guess we’ll have to cross that bridge if it comes to us.”
Despite his concerns, Kunselman said he still wants to have less regulation of medical marijuana. He added that he certainly doesn’t want to be gathering information on caregivers that could end up in the hands of the federal government, which, in a holdover of outdated 20th Century attitudes, still regards marijuana as illegal for any purpose, including medicinal use.
Removing the requirement that cultivation facility owners must apply for licenses makes sense from that privacy standpoint, Kunselman said.

Photo: Ryan Stanton/
The council voted at the request of Council Member Sabra Briere to remove any reference to marijuana cultivation facilities from a proposed licensing ordinance

​Briere said she wants to level the playing field for caregivers and not require fees and a city licensing process just because some of them want to grow at places other than their homes.
Those who grow in their own homes aren’t subject to such restrictions, and Briere though having stricter regulations on cultivation facilities would just encourage more grow operations to locate in residential neighborhoods to avoid bureaucratic red tape.
“It became difficult for me to justify treating somebody differently because they were growing marijuana outside their home,” Briere said. “As long as they’re growing within the rules of the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, they’re restricted, so the same rules apply to everybody.”
The council also on Monday night amended the zoning ordinance to place a 72-plant limit on the amount of cannabis that can be grown in cultivation facilities in Ann Arbor.
The 72-plant limit, already in place for home growers under the zoning ordinance, comes from the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act, which allows the registered caregivers to grow 12 plants per patient. Caregivers can grow for five patients plus themselves under state law.

Photo: Ryan Stanton/
Ann Arbor resident Tony Keene, shown working in his medical marijuana cultivation facility, no longer will need a license from the city under council-approved changes to a proposed ordinance Monday night

​Without clarifying the zoning ordinance, city officials said it might have been possible for multiple caregivers to grow marijuana together, possibly as a co-op, and exceed the 72-plant limit. Council members were worried that such large grow operations could attract the unwanted interest of federal Drug Enforcement Administration agents.
Briere said she considers the zoning ordinance basically complete, with one of the only issues remaining to be decided being whether a 1,000-foot perimeter is needed around schools.
Briere said she wanted to remove any question that medical marijuana business owners were being singled out by Ann Arbor.
“Part of what we did was make certain it was clear that the restrictions on caregivers — whether they were operating a cultivation facility or a home occupation — were the same restrictions that any other business or home occupation would face, so it wasn’t a matter of singling out somebody,” Briere said. “It’s just the cost of being part of Ann Arbor.”
Dispensary owner Chuck Ream, a prominent voice in Ann Arbor’s medical marijuana community, urged the council to make as few restrictions as possible.
“Caregivers are already fully regulated under the state law that 79 percent of our voters approved of,” Ream said, adding that Ann Arbor needs to be careful not to create a paper trail and give the feds “a list of juicy targets full of confidential information.”
“Please respect the state law regarding confidentiality,” Ream said. “You hold the lives of good people in your hands.”