Medical marijuana grower ordered to remove fence

Township moves ahead with ordinance regulating grow operations

DAVISON TWP. — The owner of a home in Vassar Park where a tenant has been growing large amounts of medical marijuana since spring, has been ordered by a Genesee County judge to remove the fencing and his plants by Oct. 26.

Judge Jennifer Manley of the 67th District Court in Davison ordered the removal of the medical marijuana grow operation after Davison Township officials and the property owner reached an agreement Sept. 11.

The order requires the defendant to remove all fencing materials and marijuana plants by Oct. 26, and that no marijuana cultivation (medical or recreational) will occur on the property in the future during the time he owns the property.

“That’s a permanent fix, the fence will be gone after that because it won’t be needed any more,” Supervisor Tim Elkins told a group of residents from Vassar Park hours after the court decision. “The judge could have just ruled on the fence and said the fence would have to come down. But he could have put up a new fence and he could have continued to operate. The whole problem wasn’t just the fence, but the fence and the marijuana smell.”

The township now has an ordinance where potential medical marijuana growers will need to fill out an application and have it on file with the township. They must register not only for products they grow for themselves, but for every caregiver in the household – indoor and outdoor, said Elkins.

He said the application requirement and a medical marijuana ordinance passed Monday night will keep all large marijuana grow operations out of the subdivisions in Davison Township and will move them out to agricultural areas.

“That’s what we want for the next neighborhood,” said a spokesperson for the residents. “We don’t want him (the property owner) to be able to do this again.”

Residents said they started complaining to the township in May about the grow operation, which literally sprang up overnight. The property owner has been growing multiple plants and has attempted to conceal them with a 10-foot high fence-like structure covered in tarps.

Elkins said the township had to take the owner to court to get the fence removed and the operation stopped. While the Sept. 11 agreement allows the grower to finish out the season, Elkins said it permanently stops him from growing at the house he’s currently using, and the ordinance prevents him and anyone else from attempting a grow operation that size at any dwelling in any subdivision in Davison Township.

“This is a problem throughout the township because if they come in here and we can’t stop them, they can do it anywhere,” he said. “Legally, I have to limit the risk to the township, because we don’t want to get sued. That would be irresponsible on my part. But I said we’d do everything we could, and we’ve lived up to our end of that.”

Residents asked why the homeowner wasn’t fined for his actions, but Elkins said Judge Manley chose not to fine him, instead she ordered him to take it down.

The spokesperson for the neighbors said she was pleased to hear the grow would be coming down and cannot be put back up, but she said she was still dissatisfied with the lack of punishment for the defendant.

“Why isn’t he fined. This man set out to do something, he gets his crop, he gets his grow, he was not fined, they knew about this since the day he put the plants out,” said the spokesperson, who asked that her name not be used. “I’m pleased at the outcome, if that happens. You or I would have been fined. He should have had at least a $5,000 fine. But he’s going to get to harvest it and we’re going to get to smell it.”

Since medical and recreational marijuana were legalized by Michigan voters, communities around the state have been trying to address regulations on the industry. Elkins said this case is the first the township has had to deal with since the laws changed, and he said he thinks to new ordinance will help the community with future issues.

“This is an overall township fix,” said Elkins. “If you see it (an illegal marijuana grow), report it. We’ll have the FANG unit come out and investigate. We’ll take the steps to shut it down.”