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Medical Marijuana Still A Major Topic Of Debate In Michigan Communities

Ron Strider

Well-Known Member
Medical marijuana has been on municipal agendas in Michigan a lot this year, and it could be intensifying in the days and weeks ahead.

On Monday night alone, three area municipalities will be discussing ordinances that could govern new medical marijuana businesses being allowed by the state, and possibly looking ahead to a series of hearings and meetings into November and December to finalize those regulations.

Meanwhile, would-be medical marijuana entrepreneurs await the local rules to finalize their plans. The state is set to start accepting applications for business licenses on Dec. 15.

But local units of government face no particular deadlines concerning opting in or approving ordinances, according to Catherine Mullhaupt, staff attorney for the Michigan Townships Association.

The state has been "scrambling for a year" to create the commercial system for medical marijuana "from scratch," said Mullhaupt.

"This is a huge undertaking," she said.

Municipalities are conscious of the Dec. 15 date, but have been scrambling, too, so being ready by then isn't their only consideration.

"We have too many questions," said Galien Township Clerk Jennifer Richter.

Galien Township, like Buchanan and several other area municipalities, decided earlier this year to pursue opting into the state's new system. Communities can choose to allow certain types of medical marijuana businesses and set ordinances to regulate them in conjunction with state law. The five types of businesses are growers, processors, secure transporters, testing facilities and retail dispensaries.

Richter said Galien Township might not have its ordinances finalized before the end of the year.

"The applicants can start applying to the state in December," she said. "But we're taking the time to do it right."

Stephen Ratcliff, the project coordinator for MedFarm of Michigan, a proposed growing operation in Galien Township, said his group will be patient.

"We'd like it done by Dec. 15," said Ratcliff. "But we'll do it when they get it done. We decided we're not going anywhere else."

The Buchanan City Commission has more questions, too, about plans in its town.

City commissioners approved a medical marijuana policing ordinance back in July, setting the rules for the types of businesses allowed and how they can operate.

Buchanan City Manager Bill Marx had hoped the city might approve its zoning ordinance for medical marijuana on Oct. 9, but more questions arose. The city commission extended the public hearing on it to Monday night.

Would-be investors – he's heard from about four of them – are waiting for the city commission "to finalize things," Marx said.

Buchanan

The city commission will continue its public hearing on medical marijuana zoning prior to the start of the commission meeting at 7 p.m. Monday at City Hall, 302 N. Redbud Trail. Among proposed changes, according to Marx, is not requiring a setback from parks where youth sports are played and allowing dispensaries to locate in the downtown commercial district as well as the uptown commercial district. The zoning amendment can be viewed on the city's website at City of Buchanan. The commission could approve it Monday night.

Niles

The Niles City Council will have the first reading of its proposed medical marijuana opt-in ordinance at its meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the fire station complex, 1345 E. Main St. The council could have a second reading and adoption of the ordinance Nov. 13. The planning commission will look at the proposed zoning amendment Wednesday and possibly hold a public hearing on it Nov. 13. The council is tentatively set for a first reading of the zoning amendment Nov. 27, and second reading and possible adoption Dec. 11.

Galien Township

A special meeting of the planning commission will start at 7:30 p.m. Monday at the Galien American Legion Post 344, 402 N. Main St. Township Clerk Richter said the purpose is to have more discussion about the proposed medical marijuana zoning ordinance. A public hearing on the zoning ordinance could be set at the meeting, but Richter didn't know when it might come up for a vote. The township also continues to work on its police powers ordinance for medical marijuana businesses, which probably won't come up for a vote before December, Richter said.

Milton Township

Township Supervisor Robert Benjamin said the township trustees voted Tuesday night to approve an opt-in ordinance that allows three medical marijuana growers and three processors. The planning commission will work on zoning rules and probably will propose those amendments sometime in November, said Benjamin.



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