FLINT TWP. — The growth of the medical marijuana industry in Flint Township has hit a snag. For the second time, the township board voted to delay approval of a medical marijuana licensing facilities ordinance that spells out rules for state-authorized businesses to operate in the township.
The proposed ordinance was up for second reading and adoption after being postponed at the board’s March 19 meeting.
The ordinance is intended to authorize certain types of medical marijuana facilities in the township, provide restrictions to protect public health and safety, mitigate impact on surrounding properties and defray administrative and enforcement costs by assessing and annual, nonrefundable fee of up to $5,000.
The township ordinance will not allow dispensaries (retail and recreational sales) or provisioning centers, as defined by state law. It would allow Class A, B and C growers, processors, safety compliance facilities and secure transporters.
The township board heard comments against the ordinance from Randy Stewart, township building administrator and Police Chief George Sippert.
Stewart cited a consultation letter from Wade Trim Associates of Detroit, a municipal planning group, recommending several additions to the ordinance. One was to add a “hold harmless” clause to protect the township from any illegal consequences from the facilities. Wade Trim also noted that the $5000 annual fee might not be enough to cover the costs of law and code enforcement.
Other recommendations included adding language to restrict the number of facilities allowed, to indicate that granting a license does not guarantee renewal, that unannounced site inspections be allowed, that a description of security systems be provided and that all medical marijuana activity occurs indoors.
The letter also noted that the township is legally allowed to opt out of establishing a facilities ordinance. By doing nothing, it would prevent state licenses to be issued for township medical marijuana facilities. The letter noted that the ordinance would not permit dispensaries which is the facility most demanded by local medical marijuana users.
Based on advice from Wade Trim, Stewart said the building department favored not passing the ordinance and opting out of allowing any facilities in the township.
“Denying commercial growing operations within the township’s boundaries will not hinder those who need it,: Stewart also cited concerns about marijuana growers overtaking the township industrially zoned area if other businesses locate there choose to move out.
“Could allowing this use in the industrial zoned areas hamper any future developments?’” he asked. “Would this type of operation really make good neighbors for other businesses?
He pointed out that the township has a larger industrial area than other communities that have adopted licenses and are thus open to having a lot more licensed facilities.
Stewart said he had visited such facilities in Denver, Colorado and what he saw of impact on the surrounding community was not good.
“It is the opinion of the Building Department that allowing this ordinance to pass will create an undue hardship of the Police Department, Building Department and possibly the future industrial and Commercial growth in the township”
Chief Sippert agreed. He said the topic had been discussed at meetings of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police where speakers from Colorado have shared their experiences. Community crime comes with the facilities in the form of shootings and robberies committed by people who want to obtain the drugs without having to pay for them, he said.
“My personal opinion is that this is not the way we want Flint Township to go,” Chief Sippert said.
Trustee Frank Kasle initially made a motion to approve the ordinance, citing the benefit to residents who need medical marijuana for pain treatment; but he withdrew his motion after the discussion.
The board then voted to delay approving the ordinance to allow for further study and possibly inclusion of some of the language suggested by Wade Trim and Stewart.
During public comment, one township resident spoke against passing the ordinance and two nontownship residents – one from Grand Blanc and one from Lake Orion, spoke in favor of it.
The proposed ordinance can be read on the township website at www.finttownship.org