Council maintains status quo on marijuana grow operations

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published December 27, 2017

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Although 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, the Troy City Council did not take any action to allow or regulate the grow facilities. 

The council discussed the city’s options on regulating licensed marijuana growing facilities at a special meeting Dec. 11. 

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 the five types of licenses for the grow operations to be stacked together in one facility.

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

Growing or cultivation of 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 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.

During the Dec. 11 discussion, the council listened to Shelly Edgerton, director of the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs; Jeff Schroder, former Warren assistant city attorney and now an attorney with Plunkett Cooney, representing the cannabis industry; and Troy City Attorney Lori Grigg-Bluhm.

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. 

“We wanted to give applicants the chance to get pre-qualified, pending local approval,” Edgerton said.

On Oct. 9, the council reinstated a 180-day moratorium on issuing permits to allow registered caregivers to operate marijuana growing facilities in the city. On April 24, the Troy City Council put a 180-day moratorium on issuing permits to allow registered caregivers to operate growing facilities and postponed making a decision on allowing and/or regulating larger commercial growing facilities — up to 1,500 plants — pending further study of the issue. 

Schroder noted that Troy voters approved the Medical Marihuana Program, known as the Michigan Compassionate Care Initiative, in 2008. 

“The state is going to track every ounce of product and waste,” Schroder said. 

Grigg-Bluhm said that municipalities are not required to opt out or to prohibit marijuana facilities within their boundaries. 

“If you do nothing, you (effectively) opt out and are not precluded from opting in later,” she said. 

She added that should the council decide to opt in, it  should create an ordinance regulating the facilities beforehand. 

According to the Michigan Municipal League, proponents of opting in point out that voters approved medical marijuana use in 2008. Proponents say opting in would generate tax revenue for communities, and allowing and regulating the growing facilities would make law enforcement easier. They say opting in would not allow for a citizen-initiated charter amendment with no input from the elected body. 

Opponents argue that it would create odor and safety issues, that costs for additional police or code enforcement officials would outweigh revenue generated, and the move poses liability and unknown environmental effects, according to the MML. 

Additionally, voters may see a ballot question in 2018 on legalizing the recreational use of marijuana. If voters approve it, existing marijuana growing regulations would likely have to be revised. 


Stakeholders weigh in

Nancy Morrison, director of the Troy Community Coalition for the Prevention of Drug and Alcohol Abuse, said the coalition has concerns about youth and  medical marijuana edibles. 

Tina Yancey, a building owner in Troy, asked the council to consider the benefits of regulation. Eric Neeb said he has a 100,000-square-foot building in Troy, and he urged the council to opt in, because the revenue to the city would provide a “substantial buffering” against future recessions. 

“If you opt out, they will go somewhere else,” said Troy resident Jeff Tenniswood, who said he has caregiver grow operations in Troy. “Make a good ordinance; keep it out of schools.” 

“The real issue is, is Troy ahead of the curve or behind it?” said Bruce Brickman, an industrial real estate developer. 

“Do not forget the public engagement component,” said Ollie Apahidean, a Troy resident and the chair of the Troy Planning Commission. 

“The council needs time to digest this conversation and the opportunity for public comment,” said Mayor Dane Slater. He urged business owners and residents to share their thoughts on the issue. 

“We don’t have a hard deadline,” said Councilwoman Ellen Hodorek. “We need to get it right for the community. I need more time.” 

“Opting in would be transformational for the city,” said Mayor Pro Tem Edna Abrahim. 

In neighboring communities, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted 4-2 Nov. 27 to move forward with zoning ordinances in relation to the new Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. 

Councilmembers in the city of Center Line voted unanimously to opt in and drafted an ordinance regulating facilities Dec. 4.

Center Line will limit its number of licenses to 15 in each of the five classes. Licensed growers, processors and provisioning centers will be permitted to “stack” licenses of these types in any combination at one business, while licensed secure transporters and safety compliance facilities will not.

The Center Line ordinance specifies a maximum number of five licenses for each of the three grower classes, for a total of 15 licenses.

Processors essentially will be licensed to manufacture medical  marijuana “edibles” and  byproducts.  

Center Line has also imposed zoning and building requirements that govern the location and layout of such facilities, as well as security.

The Troy City Council plans to discuss the issue again at its Jan. 22 meeting. 

Staff Writers Brian Louwers and Nick Mordowanec contributed to this report.