Troy City Council takes wait-and-see approach to medical marijuana

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published January 30, 2018

 Some licensed medical marijuana growing facilities in Troy are located in industrial buildings in the Maple Road and Stephenson Highway area.

Some licensed medical marijuana growing facilities in Troy are located in industrial buildings in the Maple Road and Stephenson Highway area.

Photo by Deb Jacques

TROY — The City Council, by consensus, chose not to opt in or out of allowing and regulating medical marijuana growing facilities, waiting instead to see what issues opt-in municipalities face later. 

The Troy City Council held a study session and public hearing on medical marijuana Jan. 22. 

“There won’t be any vote this evening,” said Mayor Dane Slater. “Any vote would be at a regular City Council meeting at a later date.” 

Several residents and community group representatives spoke at the public hearing.

“We don’t want to be known as the marijuana capital of Michigan,” said Troy resident Jim Werpetinski. 

Nancy Morrison, director of the Troy Community Coalition for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, expressed concerns that medical marijuana could be the next “big tobacco,” and she described marijuana as a “gateway drug. We don’t want to normalize marijuana and have them (young people) think it’s no big deal.” 

However, Ted Daniels, executive director of the National Cannabis Security Association, said that local regulations bring control. “Most problems are at dispensaries,” said Daniels, who noted that he is not a Troy resident. 

Resident JoAnn Preston said she wants to know what opt-in communities stand to gain, and she said she doesn’t want such facilities “near our children.” 

Resident Jim Naughton said he moved to Troy 17 years ago because it’s a safe city. “It’s important to keep our brand,” he said. 

Resident Amy Brown said medical marijuana labs are designed to keep the marijuana contained and regulated. 

“You are already in a city that has this,” said Mark Drawn, referring to licenses for registered caregivers to currently operate marijuana growing facilities in Troy. “Allow the council to create the proper regulation,” he said. 

The state of Michigan began to accept license applications Dec. 15 for medical marijuana growing facilities that allow applicants to request a license before they’ve secured a location.

In September 2016, state lawmakers passed and the governor signed into law three bills that create a licensing and regulatory framework for medical marijuana, including the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facility Licensing Act, which allows commercial facilities to grow up to 1,500 plants, and for five types of licenses for the grow operations to be stacked together in one facility.

The MMMFLA introduces five kinds of licenses: grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter and safety compliance center licenses.

Growing or cultivating medical marijuana is organized into three classes: growing up to 500 plants, 1,000 plants or 1,500 plants. 

Processing licenses relate to extraction, which involves taking the product and extracting its oils for patients who may have epilepsy or multiple sclerosis. 

Provisioning centers are more commonly known as dispensaries. 

Secure transporters move the product, while safety compliance centers use an independent testing lab to assess the product.

There are approximately 55 designated caregiver grow facilities for up to 72 plants in 33 buildings located in industrial/business districts in Troy. The exact number of facilities was not available at press time. 

 

Council weighs in
Troy City Councilman Dave Henderson said he is against Troy opting in. 

“I don’t think it’s a good fit for us,” he said. “I don’t think we need to embrace it.” 

Councilman Ed Pennington said he is not in favor of dispensaries, but he is in favor of growing facilities, which he noted are located in warehouses that were previously empty, and if the city does not opt in, there would be vacant buildings. 

“If we opt in for grow facilities only, we limit the number of growers,” Pennington said. 

“My issue is it seems the city of Troy does the bulk of enforcing, and the state gets the bulk of the revenue,” said Councilman David Hamilton. “Why don’t we sit back and wait a year, see what the effect is, wait and see until the uncertainty is resolved?” 

City Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek noted that she is pro medical marijuana, but she is not comfortable with the current laws. She described Troy as a bedroom community. 

“The city of Troy has this brand. I’m really proud of being a family-friendly community.” 

She said she favors waiting to take any action, but if she had to vote that night, she would have been “inclined to opt out.”

“We don’t need to rush in,” said Councilman Ethan Baker. “This doesn’t feel right to me … to make any firm decisions right now. This is a big deal for our city. I’m not ready.” 

“Given our city’s values and what we take pride in, I’m not comfortable opting in,” said Councilwoman Edna Ibrahim. She said the council should re-evaluate the issue at a later date. 

“I think we publicly have to make a decision,” Slater said. He said he is in favor of council voting on the matter sooner, rather than later. 

Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm said the soonest the state would issue licenses would be March. 

In March, the council will reconsider a moratorium on issuing permits to registered caregivers to operate marijuana growing facilities; the moratorium expires in April. The council approved a 180-day moratorium last April, then extended it for another 180 days in October. 

Staff Writer Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.