By David Fleet
Atlas Township-A recent decision rolled out by the Michigan Supreme Court could snuff out a growing weed concern in the township and statewide.
At the Monday night board of trustees meeting, township officials discussed concerns over an abundance of medical marijuana grown at residences.
Township Supervisor Tere Onica reported several calls from residents who boarder licensed caregivers growing medical marijuana for up to their six patients. According to state law caregivers are allowed 12 marijuana plants for each patient in their care. As a result up to 72 plants are thriving in the yards of township residents.
“We are getting calls from residents and we’ve also had a couple of complaints from neighbors too,” said Onica, during the call in township meeting. “There is nothing we can do to stop them, we (township) opted out of any marijuana retail sales or commercial operations.”
In November 2018 the township board of trustees voted 5-0 to prohibit all marijuana establishments within the boundaries of the township. The ordinance followed a then new state law that went into effect in December 2018 when voters decided to legalize marijuana for adult recreational use by a 56-44 percent margin statewide. Michigan was the first state in the Midwest to offer weed for recreation. The recreational weed vote was a decade after Michigan voters OK’d medical marijuana in 2008.
Township Attorney David Lattie responded to the growing problem at the township meeting.
“What we are finding is that medical marijuana providers, different from the commercial growers, are setting up fairly large grow operations that consists of 72 plants, plus the 12 plants for their own recreational purposes,” he said.
“These are popping up in residential area. We had one (grow facility) in Davison that turned out to be pretty big.”
It problematic to neighbors, he added
“We are using Wade Trim to look at the ordinance zoning restrictions we could have for medical marijuana providers, and a recent court case, to shed hopeful light on this for municipalities and regulation of medical marijuana,” Lattie said.
Prior to a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling, lower courts ruled it’s hands off for municipalities, it’s voter approved, there’s nothing you can do about it regarding the growing of medical marijuana, said Lattie.
Now, Lattie along with other townships are using the April 2020 supreme court ruling in DeRuiter vs. Township of Byron that municipalities can now regulate zoning for medical marijuana grow facilities. In a unanimous decision, the high court voted to allow for “reasonable zoning” for caregiver growing. Caregivers will now also need permission and require a permit from municipalities prior to starting an operation. However, the permit requirement does not effectively prohibit the medical marijuana use, said the court. Michigan is just one of 12 states that have legalized marijuana.
Lattie said the township can now set up a registration system so, “at least we know (where) it (marijuana) is at.” The new rule would include an accounting system and accounting for plants.
“A 74 or 84 plant operation is a lot more investment then 12 plants,” he said. “You don’t want to hurt the in small individual providers. You do want to regulate the bigger suppliers.”
“We should take every chance to regulate it where we can,” he said. “We’re not going to prevent it. We are going to move it around and keep it in sizes that are palatable.”
A draft of the proposed ordnance change for the planning commission will be completed in about a week.