Group seeks to allow commercial marijuana growers to operate

By: Terry Oparka | Troy Times | Published August 8, 2018

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Representatives for a group that calls itself Citizens for a Responsible Troy estimate that they have collected over 4,500 signatures on petitions asking for a charter amendment to allow commercial medical marijuana growing facilities in Troy — which the Troy City Council recently opted out of allowing. 

The City Council opted out of allowing and regulating medical marijuana growing facilities in the city in a 4-3 vote in February. 

Councilman Dave Henderson, Councilwomen Ellen Hodorek and Edna Abrahim, and Councilman Ethan Baker voted to exercise the city’s option to not allow medical marijuana facilities as defined by the Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act. 

Mayor Dane Slater and Councilmen Ed Pennington and David Hamilton voted against opting out.

There are currently 51 designated caregiver grow facilities for up to 72 plants in 33 buildings in industrial/business districts in Troy, as permitted by the Michigan Medical Marihuana Act of 2008. 

The state 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 Facilities 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 act introduced five kinds of licenses: grower, processor, provisioning center, secure transporter and safety compliance center licenses.

On April 23, the Troy City Council voted unanimously to approve a new city ordinance to allow police to conduct inspections of the facilities and to cap the number of caregiver facilities at 36. 

City Attorney Lori Grigg Bluhm explained the difference in the actual number of facilities and the cap. 

“Since we had over 70 of these MMMA caregivers making modifications to industrial buildings before we implemented our new licensing ordinance, we wanted to make sure that they could continue, as long as they met the criteria,” she stated in an email.  “We expected that some of the personal caregivers were going to abandon the personal operation and instead convert to the more profitable commercial facilities after the passage of the new law in Michigan (the Michigan Medical Marihuana Facilities Licensing Act), since you can’t grow under the MMFLA and also the MMMA. What we discovered through this process is that almost all of the caregivers who are in the city of Troy live in another community. Still, they are licensed, and as long as they are compliant, they will continue to have a license, even though the number is greater than what we hope will be the eventual limit of 36 caregivers in the city, which we thought would happen through attrition.” 

On July 31, Citizens for a Responsible Troy turned in 516 pages with up to 10 signatures on each page to the Troy City Clerk’s Office. 

City Clerk Aileen Dickson said the signatures must be certified to Oakland County Aug. 15, and she plans to present the item to the City Council at its Aug. 13 meeting. 

 

Signatures must be certified 

Dickson said that 2,925 valid signatures, or 5 percent of registered voters, are needed to place an item on the November ballot.

“If they have enough valid signatures on the charter amendment petitions, then the ballot question will be what is listed on the bottom of the back side of the petitions that they circulated, which is the question that asks whether or not the residents of the city of Troy want to allow large commercial facilities, such as a large grow operation, provisioning center (sometimes referred to as dispensaries), testing facilities, transporter facilities or processing facilities. The large grow facilities allow up to 1,500 plants but can be stacked so that there is more than one facility in each location (so they could have up to 3,000 plants),” Grigg Bluhm explained in an email. 

However, it remains unclear if those who signed petitions understood what they were signing. 

The language on the petition states that the council must adopt a $5,000 licensing fee for the commercial grow operations — but it does not cap the number of facilities. 

The Medical Marihuana Caregiver Operation License application fee is $1,500 annually. 

“The language at the top of their petition is a sample ordinance, which is not binding,” Grigg Bluhm said. “Unfortunately, under the current Michigan law, there are no penalties when a circulator provides inaccurate information. Anyone who signs a petition should read the language rather than rely upon the statements of the circulators.

“We found that the persons circulating some of these petitions did not know the substance and were providing inaccurate information when requesting signatures. We attempted to provide some education to them, but most of the circulators have an incentive to get as many signatures as possible, since they get paid per signature. Another concern is that once a person signs a petition, they are likely going to be subjected to increased mailings, etc., since the names are public and can be accessed through the Freedom of Information Act.  Unfortunately, many of our residents do not understand this when they are asked to sign a petition,” she said in the email. 

“Since the petitions have been filed, only a court order could have a valid signature struck from the petition,” Dickson explained via email. “If the petitions are not filed yet, voters can go to the circulators and ask them to cross off their name, but the circulators are not required to do so.” 

Justin Nichols, a volunteer for Citizens for a Responsible Troy, noted that 60 percent of Troy voters approved the medical marijuana question in 2008. 

He confirmed that the group was organized in East Lansing. 

“It’s very clear the part of the petition language that would be on the ballot,” he said. 

“The (city) ordinance is invalid and pre-empted by the MMMA. The facilities are already here. They are unregulated, untaxed, and there’s no compliance at all.” 

Nichols referred to three lawsuits pending against the city on behalf of caregiver marijuana grow operations that assert the city ordinance limiting the number of marijuana growing facility licenses and allowing police inspections violates state law, and he said that the appellate court decided in favor of marijuana caregivers in a similar lawsuit in Byron Township. 

“The city should opt in and regulate and tax the facilities.” 

He said that any misrepresentation was coming from the city attorney, who he said is “misrepresenting the actual law.” 


If enough signatures are determined to be valid, this is the language that voters would see on the November ballot: 

 

City Charter Amendment*

A proposal to authorize existing medical marijuana locations to obtain a facility operating license from the state of Michigan 

 

The proposed amendment would: 

 

Authorize existing medical marihuana locations with a building permit for modifications specific to the growth, cultivation or storage of medical marihuana to obtain a city license and state medical marihuana facility operating license. 

 

Authorize the following types of state operating licenses: Grower, Processor, Secure Transporter, Provisioning Center, and Safety Compliance Facility. 

 

Require strict compliance with all applicable laws and ordinances by the facility operators. 

 

Require the city council to adopt a licensing ordinance that establishes an annual, nonrefundable license fee of up to $5,000 for each facility. 

 

Proposal: Should the amendment be adopted? 

 

Yes ___

No  ___

 

*C & G Newspapers obtained the petition language through the Freedom of Information Act.