Township to set guidelines for medical marijuana growers

FLUSHING TWP. — Flushing Township is buttoning down its regulations concerning how medical marijuana plants will be stored on private property.

At the Jan. 14 meeting, the Board of Trustees approved the first reading of an amendment to the township’s home occupation zoning ordinance that will require medical marijuana growers to house their plants in an accessory structure on their property.

Although the township has prohibited commercial-scale medical and recreational marijuana operations, licensed caregivers are still allowed to grow medical marijuana for up to six patients. Under state guidelines, caregivers can grow up to 72 plants (12 per patient).

Residents can also grow a limited amount of recreational marijuana (12 plants) for personal use, in accordance with state law.

According to the home occupation ordinance amendment, licensed caregivers will have to grow and store their plants in a barn or other type of accessory building on their property. The ordinance will also prevent homeowners from growing the plants inside their home or basement and require caregivers to deliver marijuana to patients in-person, rather than having patients come to the grow facility.

Supervisor Fred Thorsby said that the amendment will require caregivers to live on the property where they are growing marijuana and prevent parcel owners from leasing property to others for marijuana-growing purposes.

“We are getting calls every week from people who want to buy property for the sole purpose of establishing a grow facility…but they don’t want to live there,” Thorsby said. “With this amendment to the zoning ordinance, people will have to live on the property in a house—not in a camper or a tent—if they want to grow marijuana.”

Other provisions of the ordinance would require marijuana plants to be stored at least 50 feet away from a residence inside a secure accessory structure. Caregivers will also have to own at least five-acres of property to grow marijuana— effectively keeping grow operations out of densely populated areas and most subdivisions in the township.

Thorsby said that keeping marijuana out of public view will help to deter thieves from targeting grow facilities.

“Last fall, we had three medical marijuana facilities broken in to, with the marijuana chopped down and stolen,” he said. “In each of those cases, they were growing the marijuana out in the open with a fence around the plants.”

Thorsby said that one of the break-ins even resulted in a shootout between a caregiver and thieves. Although no injuries were reported, the facility lost thousands of dollars’ worth of plants.

In addition to establishing growing guidelines, the ordinance will require caregivers to get a special permit to have a grow facility and allow township police to make routine inspections. As part of the state’s caregiver licensing agreement, caregivers must allow local authorities to inspect their facility/grow operation to ensure that it complies with state and local rules.

A second reading of the ordinance will be held at the next Board of Trustees meeting on Feb. 11.