Township tables home occupation ordinance for marijuana caregivers



FLUSHING TWP. — A proposed ordinance that would set zoning guidelines for medical marijuana received fierce backlash from local caregivers at the township board’s most recent meeting.

Last Thursday, the Flushing Township Board of Trustees tabled an amendment to the township’s home occupation zoning ordinance, which would require caregivers to live on the property where they are growing marijuana and house their plants in a secured accessory structure. Trustees were set to vote on a second reading of the ordinance but reversed course after multiple residents spoke out against the proposed changes.

Under the ordinance amendment, caregivers would not be allowed to grow marijuana inside their homes and would have to grow/store their plants in a secure, locked structure on their property. It would also prevent caregivers from operating within 50 feet of a property line and require them to have at least five acres of property and equipment for reducing smoke and odor.

Caregivers argued that certain sections of the ordinance violate state law governing medical marijuana and their rights as caregivers.

“Under state law, we can grow (marijuana) in our homes, where it’s already concealed,” said Flushing resident Buddy Dalton. “This (ordinance) is also creating an arbitrary restriction by making people live on the property to grow marijuana. On top of that, we don’t need a special land use. We don’t need a permit. We’re licensed medical marijuana growers through the State of Michigan.”

Some residents said that the ordinance’s five-acre requirement to grow medical marijuana is too restrictive, while others objected to a provision that would allow township police to inspect their medical marijuana grow operations.

Flushing Township Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that the ordinance amendment—which was designed by ROWE Engineering and recommended by the Planning Commission—is necessary to firm up marijuana growing guidelines and help deter the theft of medical marijuana in the township. Last fall, thieves targeted three different medical marijuana grow operations in the township and stole over 70 plants from each location. One of the cases resulted in shots being fired between a caregiver and thieves, with no injuries reported.

Local caregivers said that the thefts were isolated incidents, and that the ordinance would do more to hurt their operations than protect them.

“Caregivers are not all cashing in on tens of thousands of dollars each harvest, disturbing their neighbors or involved in outdoor grows or shootouts,” said resident Chelsea Kimber. “This ordinance would be a waste of taxpayer money and result in unnecessary enforcement.”

Others urged the board to listen to caregivers’ complaints or risk being recalled by township voters.

After considerable discussion, the township board opted to send the ordinance back to the Planning Commission for further review at its March 8 meeting.

To participate in the meeting, visit flushingtownship.com and click on the agendas/meetings tab. The meeting will be held virtually at 7 p.m. on Zoom.