Township adds confidentiality clauses to caregiver ordinance

FLUSHING TWP. — Flushing Township is edging closer to passing a home occupation/medical marijuana ordinance, following more rounds of changes to the ordinance language.

On July 8, the Board of Trustees passed the first reading of the amended home occupation ordinance, which is in its fifth draft since being proposed in January. At the request of local medical marijuana caregivers, the township added sections that would protect the confidentiality of caregivers who apply for home occupation permits.

As originally drafted, the township’s proposed ordinance split caregivers into Type 1 and Type 2 categories—with Type 1 representing those growing marijuana inside their homes and Type 2 designated for those seeking to grow in an attached or detached accessory building. Under the ordinance, Type 2 caregivers would have had to request a non-discretionary special use permit and appear before the Planning Commission in a public hearing.

However, local caregivers balked at the special use permit process, saying that it would expose Type 2 caregivers to unnecessary public attention and potentially make their plants a target for thieves.

Working with Flushing Township Attorney Steve Moulton, trustees eliminated the special land use permit for Type 2 growers—along with the distinction between Type 1 and Type 2—and rewrote the ordinance to make the permit process confidential for all caregivers.

“Rather than having the permit applications being approved by the Planning Commission for a special use permit, they will be approved by a board of less than four—possibly three township trustees,” said Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby. “The board would not (constitute) a quorum and would not be subject to publications or the Open Meetings Act.”

Thorsby said that streamlining the permit process will make it easier for caregivers to apply for permits, while still maintaining their security and privacy.

“We have no intention of denying somebody who’s legally growing marijuana the way the law says they should,” he said. “The only thing we’re concerned about is people who are growing illegally. Those are the people will we find through the help of this ordinance. Our intent (with the ordinance) is to issue permits.”

If a home occupation permit is denied, applicants can appeal by submitting a written request to the township clerk within 14 days of the denial. The appeal would then be heard by a panel consisting of Thorsby and two township trustees in a confidential hearing.

Locations of primary caregiver operations would be kept on private record and would not be subject to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests.

Thorsby also clarified that a licensed caregiver who is only growing and providing medical marijuana for a patient living in their home— such as a spouse, child, parent or partner— would not have to apply for a permit.

“What we are referring to with a ‘home occupation’ is when goods are supplied to somebody outside the home—a third party,” he said.

A second reading of the home occupation ordinance will be held at next month’s Board of Trustees meeting on Aug. 12.