Kalamazoo Township medical marijuana ordinance is overreaching and oppressive

 With a proposed new ordinance, elected officials in Kalamazoo Township are seeking to control the growth of medical marijuana caregiver operations in the township’s neighborhoods.

But medical marijuana advocates and attorneys who have defended clients in cases dealing with the drug say the proposed law is overreaching and opens up the township for potential lawsuits.

The proposed ordinance, which was before the township board for first reading last week, would relegate medical marijuana caregiver operations to business, industrial and commercial zones in the township. Those facilities also cannot have more than three caregivers operating out of them and would be subject to a visit by a building enforcement official to ensure that township building codes were being adhered to.

“We wanted to keep large grow operations out of our neighborhoods,” board Trustee Mark Miller said.

A public hearing on the matter is scheduled for March 14, when the board could vote to adopt the ordinance.

But when additional restrictions under the ordinance are taken into account — that even in those zones a medical marijuana growing facility cannot be within 1,000 feet a school or day care, within 500 feet of a church or other religious temple, within 500 feet of a public park or within 1,000 feet of another caregiver facility — the areas where grow operations would be allowed are very small parcels.

The ordinance would allow for medical marijuana patients to grow the drug for themselves and to distribute it to no more than one other person, as long as that individual is also a patient and a member of their household.

“They’ve added so many regulations that for all intents and purposes they are making it essentially illegal (to grow medical marijuana in the township),” said Daniel Grow, an attorney who has litigated several medical marijuana related cases. “On balance it (the ordinance) really erodes the intent of the act. It’s oppressive and makes it more difficult to be a caregiver and a patient.”

When asked if he thought the township would open itself up to potential litigation if the ordinance is passes, Grow said: “I think so.”

And even though she said the township has not seen an uptick in crime as a result of medical marijuana, Supervisor Terri Mellinger said the ordinance is simply the township’s way of ensuring there is “a control factor” established for the growth of the drug.

“It is a limited area. We wanted to restrict it,” Mellinger, who was part of a five-member panel that drafted the proposed ordinance, said of the small area where medical marijuana caregivers could grow the drug. “You wouldn’t want a liquor store next to a church or school. We want a control factor. There are kids in the area.”

Mellinger said her township is enduring what several local units of government across the state have for several months now: the burden of having to wade through what many have called a state law full of gray areas to craft regulations to establish how medical marijuana is dealt with in their municipalities.

“We are trying to avoid problems,” she said. “The state law doesn’t have any guidelines for local governments. We don’t want to create a problem. We’re trying to hear everybody out and be fair about it.”

Fair is the last word Greg Francisco, executive director of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Association, said he would use to describe the township’s proposed ordinance.

“These barriers are clearly out to thwart the will of the people,” who overwhelmingly passed the state’s medical-marijuana law in November 2008, Francisco said. “They are simply overstepping their boundaries and are opening themselves up to being sued. It’s all based on fear.

“No matter how many times they (municipalities) read the law, they can’t get it to say what they want it to say. It’s (medical marijuana) becoming more and more entrenched, though. We’re not worried.”

via : mLive

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