December 12, 2018

New Clinton Twp. medical marijuana ordinance upheld

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COMINS — By a vote of 3-2, the Clinton Township Board of Trustees has decided to uphold its medical marijuana facility ordinance as written.

The vote came after township Treasurer Dawn Larrison and Clerk Sheri Sanderson called for a special meeting in order to revoke the recently passed ordinance. Sanderson said she does not believe all members of the board were given enough time to prepare for the discussion that led to the original adoption of the ordinance. Larrison echoed Sanderson’s statement and said after speaking with a lawyer, Catherine Kaufman, she does not believe the ordinance is in the best interest of the township. Township Supervisor Christopher Neff said he had a conversation with Kaufman as well. According to him, Kaufman said the township would be hard-pressed to find a way the ordinance could harm the township.

Kaufman is a seasoned veteran of medical marijuana legislation in the state. In addition to her casework she is also a member of a law firm that has written sample medical marijuana ordinances that other townships have based their official documents off of. Although the majority of the ordinance is based off of the one Kaufman’s firm created, it was actually written by a prospective company that wanted to come to the township.

In an email to the township, Kaufman listed multiple suggested changes to the ordinance. Those suggestions range in severity from deleting sections that are already covered by state law, to portions she said need to be taken out as they do not track with established state laws.

“I will say that many sections of the ordinance are taken directly from the (Michigan Townships Association) sample medical marijuana opt-in ordinance, which our firm wrote,” Kaufman said. “… However, other important parts of the MTA sample ordinance have been left out. Additionally, other things have been added which, in my opinion, cause more confusion and are not necessary.”

Larrison said now that she has more time to review the ordinance, she is worried it does not go far enough to protect the township.

“The ordinance has no restrictions as to what type of facility it could be, or where it could be located,” Larrison said.

Neff argued that the type of facility is restricted. He also said the township must be wary of being intentionally unfair to one business over another.

“In our ordinance it does not allow for a provisioning center,” Neff said. “We have to be very careful about the restrictions we put on this business. We can’t place any more restrictions on this than we would a sawmill or any other business.”

Sanderson agreed with Neff’s point on not being unfair to the businesses through the ordinance; however, she also said in its current form, she believes the ordinance is unfair to the township. She said the township should have written the ordinance, rather then allowing a prospective business to write it.

“If they don’t want to do it our way, let the township write an ordinance that’s good for the township,” Sanderson said. ‘Do we really want them here? … I am not going to say I am opposed to an ordinance per se. I am against enacting this ordinance that was written by a company that had no business writing it.”

Neff said if the ordinance were not adopted as is, the company that originally approached them would not come to the area.

“If we don’t pass this, I don’t think we should opt in at all,” he said. “I don’t think we will get another business to come to Clinton Township.”

Neff said after doing his own research and speaking to Kaufman, he found the chances of the ordinance working against the township slim.

“I asked (Kaufman), ‘How can this ordinance hurt us?’” Neff said. “(Kaufman) said the only way is to have multiple Class C facilities here. To me we’re not going to be inundated with a whole lot of growers.”

A Class C facility refers to a grow operation that is allowed to have up to 1,500 plants. That type of facility is subject to a $500,000 capitalization requirement by the state. That means if the company is unable to prove it has at least a half-million dollars in assets to operate and maintain the proposed facility, it will not be issued a license. Neff said he and Kaufman don’t realistically see many companies coming to Clinton Township with that type of funding. He said there have been fewer than 25 applications for this type of facility statewide.

Larrison said she is not willing to risk any situation that could poorly affect the township.

“We have to look to the future,” she said. “We have to look 10-20 years down the road when this will be in place still.”

Neff mentioned it says in the ordinance that the township has the right to modify it at any time.

“I suggest we not throw this out,” he said. “I say we have a work session and go line by line to get at the things that may hurt us.”

Sanderson said if there are corrections or changes to be made, they should be done before the ordinance is made official.

“I don’t understand how we can have a three-page email of suggestions from a lawyer and none of them were implemented,” she said.

As discussion came to an end, the board voted on whether or not to nullify the ordinance before it was made official. Larrison and Sanderson voted to rescind the ordinance. Neff and Trustees Dale Henig and Violet Kalbfleisch voted to sustain the ordinance.

After the decision was made, Neff opened the floor for public comment. The majority of of people assembled were not happy with the decision made. Some claimed the board did not give the decision due diligence, while others felt left out of the decision. Another complaint was that the public comment section was saved for the end of the discussion, making certain attendees feel as though their opinion was unwanted. Some of those who made discouraging comments during the public comment section admitted to not being residents of the township.

Two attendees did stand by the decision of the board. They reiterated to the group assembled that there will be nowhere for anyone to purchase marijuana in the township.

One of Neff’s final comments at the meeting was aimed at easing the worries of some residents.

“From seed to plant, every one of these is assigned a barcode,” he said. “If any of this ends up where it isn’t supposed to be, that place is getting shut down.”

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