Township board sends caregiver ordinance back to the Planning Commission

FLUSHING TWP. — After facing public backlash, Flushing Township has decided to pull back the reins on a home occupation ordinance regarding medical marijuana caregivers.

At the March 11 meeting, the Flushing Township Board of Trustees voted to send an amendment to the township’s home occupation zoning ordinance back to the Planning Commission for further review and a public hearing. Trustees tabled the ordinance amendment at last month’s meeting following opposition from caregivers inside and outside the township.

As currently written, the ordinance amendment would require caregivers to grow/store their marijuana plants in a secure, locked structure on their property and not allow them to grow marijuana inside their homes. It would also require caregivers to have at least five acres of property to cultivate medical marijuana and to have equipment and proper ventilation for reducing smoke and odor.

Local caregivers criticized the ordinance at last month’s meeting, saying that the proposed changes would violate state law governing medical marijuana and their rights as caregivers. Some have also organized protests within the Flushing community and gathered signatures for an online petition to oppose the ordinance.

Flushing Township Treasurer Terry Peck, who moved to table the ordinance and send it back to the Planning Commission, said that the township needs to have more discussion on the ordinance’s most contested points.

“I’ve very much in favor of the ordinance, but I think before we go any farther with this, we need to know for sure that it is legal and know what we will be able to do to uphold it against a legal challenge if it comes,” he said.

Although much public opposition has been stated against the ordinance, Peck said that many residents have also expressed support for the ordinance through emails and inquiries at the township hall.

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that having a public hearing at the Planning Commission will give more residents on both sides of the issue a chance to air their opinions and help make potential adjustments to the ordinance.

“Our feeling is that because we didn’t have participation at the front end of the process, we want to make sure that people have a chance to participate now and get their expertise, listen to what they would like to see with the ordinance and move forward from there,” he said. “We appreciate the people who did speak about the issue recently. You had excellent comments, and they will be taken seriously.”

Thorsby and several township trustees said that they support a home occupation/ caregiver ordinance primarily from a public safety standpoint to prevent theft of medical marijuana in the township and to ensure that licensed caregivers must live on the property where they are growing marijuana.

A public hearing on the ordinance is expected to be scheduled at next month’s Planning Commission meeting on April 12 at 7 p.m.