HOLLAND — The City Council on Wednesday took its first step toward approving a medical marijuana ordinance, but some city leaders want to see a provision put that would limit the ability of caregivers to grow and distribute marijuana near school.
The council unanimously approved a first reading of the ordinance, which would make caregivers — those who grow and dispense medical marijuana — a home occupation status. That designation would require such providers to apply for a city permit and give their name and address.
A final vote is scheduled for June 1, but council members could amend the ordinance during a May 25 study session. One possible change could involve prohibiting caregivers from growing or dispensing marijuana within a certain distance of a school.
“I think it’s something that should be given serious consideration,” Councilman Todd Whiteman said. “I have four kids. I think this is something we need state leadership on.”
However, others on the council said the issue of proximity to schools and churches was earlier addressed by the Planning Commission. Mayor Kurt Dykstra, who serves on the planning body, said commissioners dropped the idea of placing a 1,000-foot gap between schools, churches and homes where caregivers could grow and dispense marijuana.
“It took out not just neighborhoods or blocks, but vast sections of the city,” Dykstra said. “It would create almost an exception that swallows the rule.”
Public Safety Director Matt Messer expressed support for some type of “safe zone” around local schools.
“I would not want to see a caregiver open next to a school playground,” Messer said. “I do think we need to give our children some kind of protection.”
The proposal continues to come under criticism from medical marijuana advocates. Kurt Volbeda, a resident of West 20th Street, says the measure discriminates against people who choose to grow marijuana in their own homes.
“The city does not inspect any home occupation residences. So why impose this on (medical marijuana) home occupations? Are medical marijuana growers less trustworthy than other citizens who engage in home occupations?” Volbeda wrote in a letter to the council.
Others expressed concern that the ordinance would still make it possible for marijuana to end up in the wrong hands.
“There’s extensive research that marijuana is addictive, particularly for young people who are much more prone to addictive response,” substance abuse prevention coordinator Lindell Herrick said.