Township takes aim at local medical marijuana growers

By Shelby Stewart
Staff Writer
Brandon Twp.- During the regular Monday night meeting, the board of trustees passed a Marijuana Caregiver Ordinance, 6-1. They also passed amendments to the C-4 Mixed Business and the Generalized Industrial districts zoning. Trustee Bob Marshall voted against the ordinance and amendments.
The ordinance would restrict caregivers growing marijuana for patients to the C-4 Mixed Business zone and the Generalized Industrial zone. It would also require caregivers to have an annual permit.
“You can’t just walk in and inspect a building to see a count of plants under the current rules,” said township attorney Stuart Cooney. “If you have the permitting ordinance, they will file an application, they will provide you with evidence of certain qualifications, there is an inspection requirement under the permitting ordinance, which allows us to keep track of what’s going on and prevent that from expanding.”
Under current rules, caregivers can grow 12 plants for every patient under their care, as well as 12 for themselves if they too are medical marijuana patients. The permitting ordinance would require the caregiver to provide information on who they are growing plants for. The permit would also have to be renewed annually.
“There is a question about HIPPA laws, but based on what I’ve seen, the only thing you’d have to do is not publish that information. It can’t be subject to the Freedom of Information Act,” said Cooney. “You keep it on file and you can reference that to say they’re a qualified patient. They have to be that or they can’t get marijuana.”
Currently, there is no regulation on what zoning caregivers could grow medical marijuana, but a recent Michigan Supreme Court decision upheld a local zoning ordinance that regulated caregiver growing operations. Now, Brandon along with other townships are using the April 2020 high 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.
Prior to a recent Michigan Supreme Court ruling, lower courts ruled its hands off for municipalities, it’s voter approved, there’s nothing you can do about it regarding the growing of medical marijuana.
“This helps us permit, because without this, they could be there anyways,” said township trustee Dana DePalma. “We just never required a permit. Now we’re requiring a permit for them to do it. If we didn’t pass this, they could still do it, we just wouldn’t know about it.”
The ordinances were all passed for first reading and will need to come back to the board for a second reading.

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