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Union Township Gives Preliminary Nod to Medical Marijuana Business Laws

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Union Township Wednesday gave preliminary approval to a pair of ordinances to regulate medical marijuana-related businesses that might want to open in the township.

On two unanimous votes, the township board made the first move toward changing the zoning law to specifically address the location and operation of dispensaries, growing operations and compassion clubs, and to set up a system to license growing operations and dispensaries.

A final vote is expected July 13.

"I think we're taking an honest and realistic approach," said Trustee John Dinse, who also is a member of the planning commission, which proposed both laws. Dozens of ommercial operations related to medical marijuana have gone into business since voters approved the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act in 2008, but none have opened yet in Union Township.

"Dispensaries and growing operations are not mentioned in the law at all," said attorney Andria M. Ditschman of the Lansing-based Hubbard Law Firm, who assisted the township's planning commission in drafting both laws. "They are defined as whatever it says in your law."

Federal law continues to make use and possession of marijuana illegal, but she said it's "highly unlikely that the federal government will come after a municipality" for regulating activities under state law.

"If they're going to exist," Ditschman said, "here's where they exist."

The zoning law will require dispensaries be located in business zones and growing operations in industrial zones. Both kinds of operations would have to be separated from residential property, churches, schools and day-care centers by least 500 feet, and from each other by at least 1,000 feet.

Township zoning administrator Woody Woodruff said that means that conceivably, three or four dispensaries could open in the township, dispersed through the suburban area's business districts.

"It's like the dirty book store," said long-time Trustee John Verwey, referring to an adult book store that opened in the township, prompting a rewrite of the township's zoning laws regulating placement of adult book stores. "We haven't seen another one of them since we zoned it."

The licensing law would set up an annual licensing and inspection system for growing and dispensing operations. Security and safety would be the primary goal of the inspections.

Licenses would not be needed for card-carrying patients or caregivers who choose to grow marijuana at home, but home growing also would be subject to inspections.

That's because of health and safety issues, Woodruff said. He said some growers increase the carbon dioxide concentration in the air around the plants, noted that artificial light used to grow marijuana may strain home electrical systems, and said that there might be issues with mold.

"We're going to be out there trying to keep people from making electrical, fire and mold mistakes," Woodruff said.

Ditschman said issues around dispensaries continue to work their way through the courts, and the process is still in its early phases.

"This is going to be ongoing," she said. "This is not going to be a quick and easy process."

News Hawk- Jacob Ebel 420 MAGAZINE
Source: themorningsun.com
Author: Mark Ranzenberger
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Copyright: The Morning Sun
Website: Union Township gives preliminary nod to medical marijuana business laws
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