By Bob Heflin
The Northern Express recently ran a story about a climate of fear
among area medical marijuana patients. After speaking to local
authorities, the Traverse City Compassion Club learned that medical
marijuana is not a high police priority at this time in Grand Traverse
County, although recent arrests do include a patient growing over
their limits, and someone growing without patient certification.
Our club recommends that patients prevent arrest by learning about the
limits of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act and the Traverse City
Medical Marijuana Ordinance.
We consider ourselves lucky. Many communities in Michigan are
struggling with implementation of this new law. Some communities have
chosen to take an adversarial relationship with their local medical
In 2004, Traverse City was one of five cities in Michigan which passed
an initiative for medical marijuana to be the lowest police priority.
With this in mind, Traverse City leaders decided to take a different
approach to the development of a local ordinance. Shortly after a
moratorium was placed on new marijuana businesses, Russ Soyring, TC
Planning Director, invited a group of medical marijuana patients and
caregivers to help draft the citys new ordinance. For months,
patients negotiated with city leaders to craft a document which would
eliminate some of the ambiguity of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act,
thereby reducing the risk of more patient arrests in the future, while
ensuring that local medical marijuana patients would have access to
safe, quality medicine.
Growing limits are set by state law but the TC Ordinance does add
several good neighbor restrictions on growers residing in the city.
The commercial zone section of the ordinance allows a patient
collective to offer a private group meeting restricted to certified
patients. Private patient meetings, with a security guard at the door
checking patient certification, ensure that medical cannabis will be
restricted to the local certified patient population. Patients
leaving or entering the private meeting may not possess more than
their legal limit. No money or cannabis is left in the building
These meetings encourage the development of a local, sustainable
supply of medicine for patients -- one not dependent on the black
market or the druglords in Mexico. It keeps medical cannabis out of
the hands of kids and the public.
Finally, private patient meetings reduce the incentive for others to
continue to operate a storefront dispensary in competition to a
private patient meeting because overhead and other expenses are
incorporated into dispensary pricing. Dispensaries are typically
50-75% more expensive than private patient meetings.
At our last TC Compassion Club private meeting, patients offered 17
different strains of high-quality cannabis, 50-75% cheaper than
dispensary prices, and a greater proportion of the compensation goes
to a local patient/caregiver who is then able to grow more medicine.
Donations and vender fees pay to lease the club meeting space.
Currently the Traverse City Compassion Club holds private patient
meetings at Crema, the downtown coffee shop at 300 Front St., on
Monday and Thursday nights from 6-9 p.m. Certified patients are
welcome to attend.
Bob Heflin, a founding board member of the Michigan Medical Marijuana
Association and past president of the
Traverse City Compassion Club, has worked professionally in criminal
justice, mental health, and addictions counseling.