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Marijuana regulation to be debated in September

By: Kristyne E. Demske | St. Clair Shores Sentinel | Published August 26, 2019

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ST. CLAIR SHORES — The St. Clair Shores City Council will consider an ordinance to regulate the growing of marijuana within the city limits in September, after members said they needed more information before passing an ordinance to regulate medical marijuana growers.

City Attorney Robert Ihrie said that an amendment to the city’s noxious ordinance is being considered to determine the best way for the city to stop fumes, odors and noises from disturbing the surrounding neighborhood when coming from a home where a resident is growing marijuana as a medical marijuana caregiver.

A person with a medical marijuana card can be a user as well as a caregiver for up to 12 people, he explained, enabling them to grow up to 12 plants for themselves as well as for each user in their home, for a total of 72 plants.

“The question arose as to whether or not the city has the right to go into a person’s home that is a caregiver ... or isn’t, but is essentially growing 12 or more marijuana plants, and do inspections,” Ihrie explained Aug. 19.

The Michigan Medical Marijuana Act limits cardholders to grow operations that do not exceed 200 feet or 25% of the square footage of the home, whichever is less, but Ihrie pointed out that it is difficult to tell whether a resident is exceeding that amount from outside of the home.

“The most common complaint we get are odors coming from a home. How do you exactly measure an odor?” he said. “If the growing, processing or handling of medical marijuana creates odors, then the city has the right to engage with that homeowner and pursue that matter.”

The proposed amendment mirrors much of the 2008 state act, some council members said, and doesn’t address the same questions of odors or noise with regard to recreational users who may or may not be allowed to grow marijuana plants in their own home.

Councilman Peter Rubino said that he raised the issue because an empty home was allegedly being used in the city as a grow house for marijuana, and a neighbor complained about the odor. He said he did not know that only a quarter of the house, at maximum, could be used to grow marijuana, nor did he know that the medical marijuana cardholder growing the weed had to own the home that was being used to grow the plants.

But while the ordinance spells out penalties for medical marijuana users and growers, “it’s now legal.”

“We don’t need medical marijuana to do these things,” Rubino pointed out.

Ihrie said that the proposed ordinance, as presented to the council in August, would not pertain to or address recreational marijuana. He said that there are still questions with regard to how the state plans on regulating recreational marijuana, which is why he did not include it in the proposed ordinance.

But Councilwoman Candice Rusie said that she believes the City Council should wait to approve the ordinance until they and legal counsel have a better understanding of the recreational marijuana law.

“This still needs a lot more work, and we need to understand what we can and cannot do,” she said. “It’s not 2008. It’s 2019, and recreational marijuana is allowable.”

Other council members agreed. Rubino said that he was hoping to see more guidelines spelled out in an ordinance with regard to how to filter the odors emanating from a house.

“The odor from growing is continuous, and it doesn’t go away,” he said. “I just want to make sure we get it right. Ultimately, my hope is, once the state gets their thing together, (marijuana is) going to move to bigger facilities and out of homes.”

He made a motion, which passed unanimously, to table the ordinance for reconsideration in September.