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      Marijuana & Marquette

      The Marquette City Commission called a special meeting Monday night to address unanswered questions about the 2008 Medical Marijuana Act.

      The issues: first, should cannabis dispensaries be allowed to set up shop within Marquette City limits? Secondly, the decriminalization of marijuana. Should marijuana possession be reduced from a criminal to a civil offense? Those issues have caused quite a stir, not only in Marquette City, but in all of Marquette County. Residents from both the east and west ends piled into Monday night's meeting to give their two cents about municipal marijuana laws.

      Everyone's got an opinion about marijuana, and the passing of the 2008 Michigan Medical Marijuana act provided an avenue of discussion for local opinions that were once quiet.

      "The medical marijuana law is here, we cannot put it back in the box," said Brian Block, a Marquette City resident.

      The city commission gave Marquette residents the podium and asked them how they felt about medical marijuana dispensaries potentially operating in their city, and there was much dispute. City officials expressed concerns of increased crime near dispensaries.

      "I have a responsibility to this community to provide a certain level of safety which I need to take seriously," said Marquette Police Chief, Mike Angeli. "And often with a large number of marijuana providers, because of this law, directs towards a less regulated form of enterprise."

      But some Marquette residents disagreed, saying that not having designated dispensaries is an even greater danger.

      "The advantage of allowing a location for those cooperative caregivers and patients is, again, removing money, removing equipment or moving black market whatever, and separating medicine from drugs," said Marquette resident Jen Vajda.

      The commission invited county Chief Assistant Prosecutor, Matt Wiese, and health educator, Sarah Derwin, to speak to the crowd as experts. They discussed dispensaries and the decriminalization of marijuana on a municipal level.

      Some board members said a criminal record with marijuana can hold first time offenders back in life.

      "Once it's on there, it's very hard to get off your records," said Commissioner John DePetro.

      The City Attorney, Ron Keefe, disagreed.

      "I just don't find that as much of an argument to be honest with you," said Keefe.

      And while there was much dispute, everyone seemed to agree--the medical marijuana act has a lot of grey areas that needs to be addressed.

      No decisions were made Monday night, but Mayor John Kivela said that the issues should be revisited within the next two months.