Flint Township View

Board has mixed reactions to proposed medical marijuana ordinance

GRAND BLANC TWP. — Some members of the Grand Blanc Township Board of Trustees are not enthusiastic about a proposed medical marijuana caregiver ordinance.

Township attorney David Lattie suggested the board consider enacting an ordinance to compel caregivers to register with the township. Lattie also recommended a zoning change to limit medical marijuana grows to certain zoning districts.

The recommendations come on the heels of similar actions approved in neighboring Davison and Atlas townships.

The regulations, which would affect only medical marijuana grows, would require caregivers to apply for a township license, provide patient information, and allow code enforcement officers to inspect their properties.

“As the individual (recreational marijuana grower) is concerned, we’re basically hands-off,” Lattie said. “The hope is … individuals aren’t having as much of a negative impact on neighborhoods as five times (an individual quota). We’re not going to concern ourselves with the individual or one or two recreational cultivations.”

Trustees Paul White, Joel Feick and Jude Rariden expressed some resistance to the proposed ordinance and zoning changes.

White said he has concerns about enforceability.

“I’m going to put aside my philosophical issues for a second,” he said. “My concern with this, and I understand the sentiment, but I think … unless we’re going to turn code enforcement into the weed police, then essentially we’re not going to get anything accomplished.

“If multiple complaints can’t fix somebody who’s got trash in their yard, then I have no idea why we’re going to throw more work on code enforcement and think they’re going to be up to it, or else they’re only going to do that and neglect the quality of life issues.”

Himself an attorney, White also took issue with the inspections.

“Do the police have probable cause to knock on a door and say they just want to see if you have a permit and poke around?” he asked. “I’d tell my clients don’t let anyone in, ever, to look at anything. That’s smart legal advice. This seems like it’s opened up a big can of worms.”

Lattie said the inspections do present an interesting legal scenario.

“Say someone did participate in the application process and they were permitted,” Lattie said, “and we suspect a deviation from state law. Can we knock on their door and go in, or force our way in? That is something we will have to explore.”

He added that officers would not kick in doors to gain entry, but rather, seek a court order.

“I think the application and permit process at least begins the dialogue,” he said of the legal nuances. “There could be more legal work on the horizon for attorneys.”

Rariden pointed out that state liquor control laws authorize police to inspect businesses that sell alcohol.

However, he added, “I have real problems with having people cede their rights.”

Feick questioned the necessity, as well as the enforceability, of the proposed regulations.

“Has anyone been arrested? What’s been the resolution?” he asked. “Or, have the people who’ve been doing this been within their legal rights?”

Feick said he’s trying to understand the extent of the problem and whether the township can do anything about it if growers are acting within the law.

Township Clerk David Robertson voiced support for the measures, saying large-scale medical marijuana operations are “an emerging issue.”

“The argument that we already have enough for our code enforcement to do only goes so far because, if we need to dedicate more resources for code enforcement, … that is a separate issue for this board to address separately,” he said. “The larger issue is, does the ordinance have merit, does the issue have merit? I think it is forward-thinking for us to at least entertain the idea for an ordinance.”

Supervisor Scott Bennet said he has heard some complaints from residents who live near marijuana grows, but who are reluctant to file an official report for fear of retribution.

“The bottom line is, we’ve had some issues,” he said.

Bennett added that township officials have discussed the possibility of licensing home-based businesses.

“What we’ve considered in the past is asking those who have businesses to register,” he said. “That way, if there is a fire at my home, if I’m registered as a business, perhaps the fire department would already know, for example, if I have large amount of rubbing alcohol or other flammable stored in the garage due to my business. It helps in a number of ways, also traffic issues, what have you. I see this kind of dove-tailing into that.”

The similar measures in Davison and Atlas townships came about after residents in one Davison Township neighborhood complained about a large medical marijuana grow.

“I’ve heard arguments from both communities saying they want medical marijuana patients to have their medication, and they don’t want put any impediments in their way,” Lattie said. “Then again, I’ve seen entire neighborhoods show up at meetings and beg for some relief.”

Makeshift structures constructed with thick plastic “walls,” rickety fences and, most of all, odors have prompted the complaints.