Clinton Township votes to opt out of recreational marijuana business

Ordinances introduced related to odor control, local drug laws

By: Nick Mordowanec | Fraser - Clinton Township Chronicle | Published April 16, 2019

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CLINTON TOWNSHIP — On April 8, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees voted 7-0 to prohibit recreational marijuana establishments within township boundaries.

The vote followed ordinance introductions, which were also unanimously approved and will be voted on at future meetings, in relation to controlling odor and revising township rules based on elements of possession, sale, delivery and the cultivation of controlled substances.

“We are, in fact, opting out, which is what we’re required to do under the statute, and that’s what the ordinance says. … When we opt out, it’s not a permanent decision,” Township Attorney Jack Dolan said. “We can amend and introduce an ordinance that would allow recreational marijuana under whatever circumstance (the board felt was) appropriate in that ordinance.

“In other words, it’s not like you opt out and you’re precluded from changing your mind and doing something differently.”

The odor control ordinance, if approved, would involve the use of a device — called the Nasal Ranger — that costs about $2,750, in addition to a training package for up to five users totaling $1,350. That doesn’t include additional supplemental costs for cartridges, masks and more equipment. A different brand may be utilized in the future.

“If we receive multiple complaints from a resident, we will inspect and we do have a method to control it,” Supervisor Bob Cannon said.

Dolan said this ordinance would allow township officials to physically measure odors, notably marijuana, tobacco and compost. It’s the same device used in Denver, Colorado, where recreational marijuana has been legal since 2012.

A citation could be issued upon a first complaint, Dolan noted, and three complaints in 10 days would force a mitigation plan — possibly leading to court-based litigation. Also, under the rules of the ordinance, a township employee could realistically issue a citation without the use of the odor measurement device.

Dolan believes this ordinance adds a more objective way of measuring odor, in a way that could be quantified, and it prevents repeat offenders. It’s about being respectful to neighbors.

“Just because you are entitled to use marijuana, it doesn’t mean you have an absolute right to use it in a way that unreasonably interferes with other people,” Dolan said.

Trustee Mike Keys expressed hesitance at how it would affect both township employees and the court system.

“I think this will add a lot more to the workload in my opinion,” Keys said. “Now, we’re not just talking about plants in the home. We’re saying that anyone who takes a joint in their backyard and lights one up, we have now given them a mechanism for their neighbors to call the township … and there could be court action.”

Building Department Superintendent Barry Miller said “it’s going to be handled by a case-by-case scenario based on level of severity.” Registered complaints would be saved on file.


Waiting on the state
Dolan said the township’s decision to opt out is contingent on what rules the state enforces due to licensing and other rules.

“The reason we haven’t acted yet is, the state has yet to promulgate rules,” he said. “And until they promulgate rules, there won’t be a process by which people can apply for and get state licenses.”

In Clinton Township, over 4,000 more voters supported Proposal I than were against it.

Township resident Theodore McGregor, who has a background in chemical corporations and laboratories, suggested bringing technical experts to future meetings to provide fact-based claims to residents. He said other metro Detroit communities “are jumping on this” opportunity.

“We voted it in, and I say ‘we’ because it’s all of us together. ... If we want to walk away from this and let the other communities do it, then I think it’s a mistake,” McGregor said.

Resident Jessica Finch, who described herself as a “cannabis activist” who is associated with Michigan NORML and MI Legalize, said she respects the township’s decision to wait until rules are more defined. She hopes it’s acted upon the “right way,” where “facts are lined up.”

“I think Clinton Township has an opportunity to lead the county in responsible regulation and taxation of marijuana businesses,” Finch said.

Another resident, Rich Emmers, said he was a big advocate for cannabis, even though he hardly uses it himself. He said he is a proponent of marijuana’s natural sustainability, and that “God created marijuana” like corn, wheat and grass.

Like Finch, Emmers hopes the township will be a leader and not a follower when it comes to recreational marijuana in southeast Michigan.

“Look at the establishments within the township that serve alcohol,” he said. “How many are there? There’s a lot: restaurants, bars, drug stores, gas stations, and anyone can go in there and buy a bottle of beer, a bottle of booze, and nobody questions that.

“Studies will show there’s more harm done to the human body with alcohol than any strain of (natural) marijuana.”

Treasurer Paul Gieleghem said the township has an obligation to look at different aspects of the new law: economic development claims, medicinal qualities, the effect on youth brains, and the lack of funding assigned to youth prevention.

Gieleghem, who stated he is not philosophically opposed to marijuana, doesn’t “see a lot of money in this for Clinton Township” when it comes to funds that “offset the social consequences.”

“At the local level, my job is to listen to the voters — and yes, the voters approved this,” he said. “But my job is also to make sure I protect the community from the law of unintended consequences.”

Another resident, Lisa Valerio-Nowc, has been an educator and librarian for more than 25 years and lives near schools.

“What really concerns me about the marijuana law and (being) readily available is that it is going to harm our kids, and they will not be properly taught how to use it — or even not to use it,” she said.

Clerk Kim Meltzer said the township can always revisit the issue at a later date, when the laws are more demarcated.

“It puts the power back in our laps, and that’s what we’re saying we want,” Meltzer said. “We’re listening to all of you here today and we’re taking that into account, and we want to be the ones who can come back and say it’s what the people of Clinton Township want.”