Township forms committee to explore medical marijuana law

By: Nick Mordowanec | C&G Newspapers | Published June 14, 2017


CLINTON TOWNSHIP — On May 30, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees discussed updates to the medical marijuana law that was approved by Michigan voters in 2008. A new set of state regulations are scheduled to take effect Jan. 1, 2018.

Michigan is one of 20 states whose residents voted to approve medical marijuana.

The original law stated that a caregiver could grow up to 12 marijuana plants for each patient, while not exceeding serving five patients. Statewide dispensaries have posed issues the last decade due to regulations and murkiness in the way the law is written.

New regulations will create three separate classes for growers: those who can grow 500 plants; those who can grow 1,000 plants; and those who can grow 1,500 plants. Also, individuals can apply for licenses in five different classes: grower, processor, transporter, provisioning center and safety compliance in regard to dispensaries.

Medical marijuana regulation is legally described in Michigan House Bills 4209, 4827 and 4210.

On May 22,  Clinton Township Supervisor Bob Cannon wrote a letter to the Board of Trustees stating that the township needs to consider all the potential positive effects of the amended law, as well as the ramifications of supporting or rejecting the new language.

Per law, the township has no control over whether licenses can be distributed locally, though the board can choose to approve an ordinance pertaining to growing and dispensing.

Cannon proposed an exploratory medical marijuana committee to dissect the new information and propose a proper recommendation to the board for future consideration. He, along with Clerk Kim Meltzer, Treasurer Paul Gieleghem, Trustee Jenifer “Joie” West, Planning Director Carlo Santia and Township Attorney Jack Dolan, will compose the body of the committee.

The new medical marijuana law coincides with the possibility of recreational marijuana being part of the 2018 statewide ballot. Pro-legalization group the Coalition to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol was permitted May 5 to start collecting signatures statewide on behalf of recreational marijuana proponents. From that date, the group has 180 days to collect 252,523 signatures.

Cannon said in the court of public opinion, it appears as though more people favor legalizing recreational marijuana than those who are opposed. He acknowledged that municipalities will make their own decisions, but said Clinton Township officials cannot “put our heads in the sand.”

“It’s something that we have to address, and no matter which direction we head, we are going to face both praise and criticism,” Cannon said May 30.

He hopes the committee brings enough information to the voting body prior to Dec. 15, as users can apply for a license after that date.

Gieleghem said at the meeting that the original medical marijuana initiative was “hastily put together” and has led to statewide problems that have experienced no solutions — such as grow operations and how they “stink up” neighborhoods and impact residential neighborhoods.

With the possibility of recreational marijuana becoming the norm, he said it’s now time to figure out how this law would impact the local community, prior to rules being promulgated.

“I think it’s a good idea to get ahead of the curve, to not pre-judge what we’re going to be doing and what recommendations we can come up with,” Gieleghem said. “There’s some real consequences here, and it’s good to get ahead of these issues rather than deal with them after the fact.”

Meltzer said township officials were meeting with local school officials, such as the Chippewa Valley Coalition for Youth and Families, to gain more knowledge on the subject.

“Certainly, there’s going to be a financial impact,” Meltzer said. “We don’t know if that’s going to be really a good side of revenue. However, there certainly will be a social impact. That’s going to be a big concern.”

Charles McQueen, a township resident since 2010, said the township should act on its own accord no matter what other local municipalities decide.

“Please do not consider doing this for the financial gain,” McQueen pleaded. “Consider the moral aspects of mind-altering drugs.”

Cannon said that although marijuana has its well-known reputation, he mentioned that  he has friends and acquaintances who have used the substance to curb pain after chemotherapy sessions, for example. He said “there is clearly some medical use for it.”

He did acknowledge the era of the 1960s and 1970s, when usage was prevalent and the effects weren’t always positive.

Also, he wondered how finances would operate in what is essentially an all-cash business, as well as how marijuana’s ascendance into societal normality makes life more difficult for members of the Clinton Township Police Department.

Resident Russell Holtslander believed the effects of the new law will be “minimal at best,” echoing Cannon’s words that medical marijuana has become beneficial in treating pain and certain ailments.

“I think you should seriously consider how many people in this township might be sitting here five years from now with cancer and have to move out of this township to get care because you decided (its outcome),” Holtslander said to the board.

Trustee Mike Keys said the effects of marijuana have already infiltrated the community, citing stories from the Clinton Township Building Department and from police officers about homes that are rented solely for the purpose of growing marijuana.

“At the end of the day, this is a problem that’s hitting every member of the community,” Keys said. “The statistics show that that’s something we need to come to terms with. It’s not a problem for the south end or the north end. It’s a problem for everybody.”