Planning commission votes against medical marijuana businesses

FLINT TWP. — The Flint Township Planning Commission last week voted against allowing any medical marijuana businesses to operate in the township.

The commission held a public hearing July 24 to gather input on the businesses. During the meeting, three residents, a medical marijuana business owner and his attorney, Police Chief Kevin Salter and Township Supervisor Karyn Miller spoke. The commission voted separately on each of the five types of businesses – medical marijuana processing facilities, secure transport centers, safety compliance facilities, grow centers and dispensaries. Identical votes of 5-4 were recorded each time, with commissioners Randy Kilbreath, George Menoutes, Warren Marks, Carol Pfaff-Dahl and Chairman Larry Ford voting against the businesses.

Police Chief Kevin Salter told the commission that 9-1-1 calls for person with a gun, disorderly conduct and domestic situations are all higher in areas with marijuana businesses, placing a greater burden on police officers.

“It’s not safe for the community or safe for our officers,” he said.

Business owner Martin Sema of Farmington Hills said he owns a 1.5-acre approved Class C growing and processing facility and is looking to expand his business in Flint Township. He took exception to Salter’s assessment of increased crime.

“Crime is not what you are making it out to be,” he said. “We will get you the facts and statistics.”

Three residents spoke against allowing medical marijuana businesses in the township.

Before the vote, Commissioner John Gazall said he believed the comments about crime around marijuana businesses could be made about any bar parking lot in the township and was not a valid reason to vote against allowing medical marijuana.

“Has anybody seen someone who can’t keep their food down?” he asked. “I want to allow this for people who are sick. The township supervisor has said they are elected to represent the people. The people on the ballot approved this, so who are we to say no? The smell, the setback, where it can be sold, this is all covered by zoning. I know some people who have gotten sick. Believe it when they smoke marijuana, and it helps them.”

Commissioner Sonya Rubel said two people close to her used medical marijuana to relieve their pain from cancer.

“I reluctantly acknowledged it was because of the medical marijuana she was taking daily through a syringe,” she said. “My conscience tells me to go along with having it manufactured. I don’t go along with people saying, ‘I believe people should be able to get it, but not in my neck of the woods.’ My sister is alive today because of it.”

After the vote, Ford said he has great empathy for people suffering from cancer and other illnesses, but they have the opportunity to get medical marijuana from hospitals.

“I just have concerns having it in our neighborhoods,” he said. “There’s plenty of it around. Why should we get involved as well? It could create havoc for our police department. I believe it’s the beginning of some big problems down the line.”

The township board of trustees received at its June 3 meeting an original recommendation from the commission to allow medical marijuana processing facilities, secure transport centers, safety compliance facilities and grow centers, but not dispensaries. That recommendation came out of a planning commission meeting where two commission members were absent.

Miller said at the trustees’ meeting the marijuana issue is important enough that she wanted to hear from the full commission and wanted a meeting to gather public input. At the time, she pointed out that every precinct in the township had voted in November in favor of allowing both recreational and medical marijuana businesses. The township already has opted out of allowing recreational marijuana.

The commission’s recommendation against allowing any medical marijuana businesses will now go to the trustees for a final vote.