2017-08-10 / News

Planning Commission weeds through new marijuana laws

BY LANIA ROCHA
810-452-2652 • lrocha@mihomepaper.com

SWARTZ CREEK – Talk around the Swartz Creek Planning Commission table last week was largely in favor of allowing at least some commercial medical marijuana operations in the city.

“I’m all for it with the proper supervision and proper guidelines,” said Commissioner Bud Grimes. “If we put up the proper hurdles, and we get someone who can go over those hurdles to our satisfaction, I don’t see a problem with it.”

Commissioner Dennis Pinkston said he tends to agree, but he has reservations.

“I have no problem with medical marijuana,” said Pinkston. “It has been proven to be a huge benefit in raising patients’ tolerance to pain. My biggest problem is I don’t trust the state. I need a better guarantee and I want more information on the testing.”

Commissioners have been working with attorneys and consultants, and gathering public input, for months in anticipation of new state regulations affecting commercial operations.

They hope to have a proposed ordinance ready to submit to the city council for final approval by November.

Under a package of laws enacted in September 2016, all municipalities are exempt unless or until the local governing body (city or village council or township board) “opts in” to allow any or all of five practices – growing, processing, testing, transporting and distributing.

The planning commission generally favored four of the options – provisioning centers being the exception – but only in areas zoned for industrial uses and only if licensees obtain special land use permits from the city.

“With a special land use, (the city) controls the time, place and manner (of operations),” said City Manager Adam Zettel.

Special use permits also allow the city to impose operating conditions based on specific concerns, such as requiring ample filtration systems to reduce odors, he said.

The community, so far, has been reluctant to embrace provisioning centers, Zettel said.

However, if city officials prohibit distribution but later change their minds, they may miss out on the “quality” merchants, he said.

“This is a tough one,” Zettel commented. “I believe some provisioning centers will be very well run.”

Commissioner Jentery Farmer has a similar belief.

“I think there are enough people, who are wonderful people, who know what it takes to run a positive business,” Farmer said, adding that competition is likely to weed out the bad seeds.

With only six of nine commissioners present at last week’s meeting, the discussion will resume in September.

Zettel urged the planning commission to have a proposed ordinance ready in time for the city council to take action before the state begins reviewing license applications Dec. 15.

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