New medical marijuana registration ordinance takes effect in Atlas Twp.

ATLAS TWP. — A new ordinance that takes effect this month will require medical marijuana caregivers here to register with the township.

In addition, the Planning Commission is expected to begin discussions regarding limiting medical marijuana operations to certain zoning districts.

The registration ordinance will apply to new and existing caregivers.

Township officials will mail letters and applications to caregivers who are registered with the State of Michigan. There will be a $250 application fee.

Caregivers who fail to register are subject to a municipal civil infraction which can include fines of $250 to $1,000 and additional costs, and court-ordered compliance or cease-and-desist orders.

The code enforcement officer will enforce the ordinance, but authorities do not expect to visit every registered, home-based medical marijuana grow in the township, according to township attorney David Lattie.

“If they have information from any source that someone is operating a facility without being registered, they will pursue it,” Lattie said.

Atlas Township officials have attempted to keep a tight rein on both medical and recreational marijuana operations, thus far. They did not opt-in to any of the new marijuana business classifications made lawful in 2016, including commercial cultivation, processing and testing.

“This is not meant to hurt individuals who need medical marijuana,” Lattie told the Board of Trustees in December. “This is just a registration ordinance. It doesn’t outlaw caregivers providing medical marijuana to patients. It just makes sure they are following the guidelines.”

None of the township’s regulations affect people who grow marijuana for their own personal consumption.

“If they’re over 21, they can grow up to 12 plants,” Lattie said. “That’s something we don’t have a whole lot of control over.”

The new ordinance comes on the heels of a controversy in neighboring Davison Township, where a medical marijuana grow drew complaints from neighbors.

“This will regulate caregivers who could have up to 72 plants: 12 for each of five patients, plus one for themselves,” he said. “You might think 72 plants wouldn’t have an impact on surrounding properties, but … in Davison Township, it became quite a large operation.

“It was felt, not only in Davison Township, but in other communities, that there needs to be some thorough understanding of exactly who the caregivers are, who the patients are – not the names, but confirming that they’re registered – and making sure they’re following the guidelines of the state.”

Township Trustee and Planning Commission member Pat Major added, “If a husband is a caregiver, and his wife is a caregiver, and they grow the same number of plants they’re allowed to grow, and if they have an adult child who does it … even if we implement everything we want to, they can still grow an awful lot of marijuana,” Major said. “So, we’re not limiting as much as you might think.”

As to the potential zoning requirement that the Planning Commission will consider, existing operations will not be affected if they are in compliance with all regulations that exist in the township prior to the zoning change, Lattie said.

“There could be people who qualify to be grandfathered in if they have an established, lawfully-conforming use beforehand,” he said. “One requirement would be they would have to be in compliance with the state regulations and, beginning when the (registration) ordinance takes effect, in compliance with that, also.”