‘We want to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods’

Macomb Township changes medical marijuana ordinance

By: Alex Szwarc | Macomb Township Chronicle | Published April 21, 2021

 Macomb Township Supervisor Frank Viviano said the ordinance is very limited in scope to residential neighborhoods and instances where someone is growing more than 12 marijuana plants.

Macomb Township Supervisor Frank Viviano said the ordinance is very limited in scope to residential neighborhoods and instances where someone is growing more than 12 marijuana plants.

File photo provided by Frank Viviano

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MACOMB TOWNSHIP — An article related to patient caregivers has been added to a Macomb Township ordinance.

At the April 6 Macomb Township Planning Commission meeting, a public hearing for a zoning ordinance amendment was held for a new article to the township’s medical marijuana ordinance.

The commission recommended to the Board of Trustees the presented ordinance to eliminate the phrase “on a residentially zoned parcel or otherwise authorized for residential use and on an industrial zoned parcel.”  

The new article, unanimously approved at the board’s April 14 meeting, deals with regulating medical marijuana patient caregiver activities.

“The ordinance will zone out the ability of caregivers, under the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, to grow in a residential neighborhood,” Macomb Township Supervisor Frank Viviano said April 14. “We want to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods.”

A press release from the township notes that the ordinance prohibits growing marijuana in any residentially zoned property except for personal or medical use, which is capped at 12 plants. Those wanting to grow more than 12 plants under the caregiver provisions of the Michigan Medical Marijuana Act, or MMMA, would need to secure space in a commercial or industrial zoned area of the township.  

Planning Director Josh Bocks said the township had a moratorium on medical marijuana and had a number of related issues.

“We’ve been working at creating some language for our ordinance amendment,” he said.

Last August, the township established a moratorium on future planning for facilities in regard to cultivating marijuana. The moratorium froze issuing of permits for residential structure modifications associated with caregiver cultivation of marijuana.

Attorney Tim Tomlinson, who handles general municipal work for the township, said three acts have been approved by a ballot initiative in Michigan, including the 2008 MMMA.

Other acts are the Michigan Medical Marijuana Facilities Licensing Act and the Recreational Marijuana Act.

“There are some limitations with each of those acts for the ability of a community to govern marijuana in their perspective boundaries,” he said.

Viviano said residents should be able to enjoy their properties without interference of a commercial marijuana operation — when someone is growing 72 plants in a home.

“We have no desire to eliminate the people’s ability to enjoy the rights given to them by the people of Michigan through the ballot initiatives that passed,” Viviano said.  

Tomlinson noted that the most problematic for Macomb Township is the MMMA.

“It was restrictive on the ability of a local municipality to impose any zoning or regulatory restrictions,” he said. “It has language that restricts what we can do.”

What Tomlinson has noticed in Macomb Township and other communities is that caregivers take over homes in residential neighborhoods and make them grow houses.

“It’s only speculation, but when you look at the data in regard to the number of plants that are grown, what a caregiver would be permitted, which is up to 72 plants in a particular facility, is far beyond what a reasonable patient-caregiver relationship would need,” he said.

Tomlinson explained that the presented ordinance says in broad terms that the township can zone medical marijuana in some respects.

At the April 6 meeting, Viviano said he spearheaded the effort to amend the ordinance.

“Over the last few months, I realized that we cannot reverse or change state law,” he said. “I’ve gone out of my way to make no value judgements on the use of marijuana. This ordinance is very limited in scope to residential neighborhoods and instances where someone is growing more than 12 plants.”

Viviano said folks using an additional caregiver license will have to find a more suitable location, like commercial or industrial space, to grow marijuana. The ordinance change takes  effect May 24.

Also at the board meeting, it was authorized for Viviano to execute a property donation to the township with Kay Arrowhead, LLC. Over 14 acres of land near 22 Mile and Romeo Plank roads is being donated from Joyce and the late Bill Pitchford as a charitable gift. The donations intentions are for the township to establish a park named after the Pitchford’s.

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