Muskegon-area governments wrestle with Michigan marijuana law

WEST MICHIGAN — Zoning ordinances that regulate the use and growing of medical marijuana are beginning to pop up as local governments develop ways to regulate the 2-year-old state marijuana law.

Laketon Township is believed to be the first government in Muskegon County to establish a medical marijuana ordinance, a recently approved measure that treats the drug’s growth as a “home occupation” by primary caregivers and intends to ban commercial dispensaries. In the greater area, similar ordinances have previously been adopted in Grand Haven, Spring Lake Township and Grand Haven Township.

“We didn’t want stores opening up,” said Laketon Township Supervisor Kim Arter. “It’s not cutting out the caregivers. The township board decided we didn’t want storefronts opening.”

The state’s medical marijuana law, approved by voters in late 2008, has caused much confusion for Michigan’s more than 45,000 licensed medical marijuana patients, law enforcement and local governments. The confusion has stemmed from the law’s language, its conflict with federal law that continues to ban the use and possession of the drug, and some communities trying to regulate or ban its use without being sued.

The basic stance of the law is that patients can possess up to 2 1/2 ounces of usable marijuana and have up to 12 plants kept in an enclosed, locked facility or have a registered caregiver grow the drug for them. Many patients use marijuana to ease pain from conditions, including cancer.

Local governments are left to consider what will be allowed in their communities. Some governments have been contacted by those interested in opening a business to grow and sell the drug. Others have taken a restrictive stance on the issue, leading the American Civil Liberties Union to sue some Michigan cities, including Livonia, Bloomfield Hills and Wyoming.

In Muskegon County, several governments have put moratoriums on the issue to give officials more time to study the matter before enacting an ordinance. Muskegon officials extended the city’s moratorium in December, while Muskegon Heights — considering some changes to a proposed ordinance drafted by its attorney — has a moratorium in place that runs to February.

Muskegon Township has not taken any official action regarding the issue. Township Supervisor Dave Kieft Jr. said township officials tell anyone who calls township hall about it that the township can’t permit a business that violates federal law.

In Laketon Township, officials decided rules needed to be put in place. Arter said her main concern was keeping marijuana businesses from opening up in the township that is mainly residential.

When asked about the federal-law conflict, Arter said, “We look at it as the voters of Michigan voted this in.”

Laketon Township’s ordinance allows for the “lawful dispensation” of medical marijuana by a primary caregiver personally dispensing to up to five qualified patients “as long as the caregiver personally delivers the lawful amount where the qualifying patient resides.” The ordinance also includes language prohibiting the operating or patronizing of a dispensary in the township.

Grand Haven moved relatively quickly in establishing its ordinance, making it effective Oct. 10. As a result, city officials have been contacted by several municipalities to look at their adopted language.

“I’ve had several phone calls from municipalities around the state,” said Kristin Keery, Grand Haven’s city planner.

Grand Haven’s ordinance also prohibits dispensaries. In addition, the city’s ordinance bans marijuana growing within 1,000 feet of any school or library to insure compliance with federal “Drug-Free School Zone” requirements.

The ordinances in Grand Haven, Spring Lake Township and Grand Haven Township — featuring similar language — have clauses in the ordinances that provide for review or inspection by local agencies.

Grand Haven’s ordinance states, “All medical marihuana shall be grown and contained within the main building in an enclosed, locked facility inaccessible on all sides and equipped with locks or other security devices that permit access only by the registered primary caregiver or qualifying patient, as reviewed and approved by the building official and the city of Grand Haven Department of Public Safety.”

Grand Haven Township’s ordinance states, “That portion of the dwelling unit where energy usage and heat exceeds typical residential use, such as a grow room, and the storage of any chemicals such as herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers shall be subject to inspection and approval by the fire department to insure compliance with applicable standards.”

Spring Lake Township’s ordinance states, “The Lot and Dwelling Unit shall be open for inspection upon request by any or all of the following for compliance with all applicable laws and rules: the Zoning Administrator or the Fire Department or law enforcement officials.”

via : Associated Press

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